Hilaria Ramos Palomino
Maker and seller of clothes / Potato farmer
45 years old, 5 children
Hilaria has several strings on her bow: she knits and sews handicrafts (hats, sweaters and stuffed animals), which she sells at the market on weekends. She sells the rest of her stock to her friends. At the same time, she grows potatoes on a piece of land outside of Puno (on the banks of Lake Titicaca).
For the past 10 years, she has worked with Promujer (a Microfinance Institution – MFI) because “access to credit is easier than with banks”, she explained. “We formed groups of 20 to 25 people, because it’s easier to get loans as a group. This way, we didn’t need to provide guarantees, which we would have had to do for the banks”.
It’s been due to this access to credit that she’s been able to launch several businesses. It’s also made it possible for her to increase the volume of the goods that she sells in the market.
When they joined Promujer, all the women in the group received a week of training to learn how to manage their businesses better. Hilaria said that she has never had trouble repaying the loans, partly as a result of this training: “They told us very clearly that the money should be used for a business and not for something else. They gave us training so that we would know how to use the money for our businesses.”
Now she wants to take out a larger loan to buy a small plot of land: “My relationship with Promujer has been successful over the last 10 years, so I don’t want to stop now. They’ve helped me personally, and they’ve helped my family as well: my children are in school.” When she first began to work with Promujer, Hilaria opened a savings account: “I’ve saved almost $1,000”. This means that she can access larger amounts of credit. However, she knows that repaying a larger loan will be more difficult: “I will have to make sacrifices”.
Hilaria has participated in a number of Promujer health campaigns over the past 10 years: “I’ve learned how to take better care of myself.” At the moment, she’s taking a course on how to prevent infections, which is taught by one of the MFI’s teachers.
Lucrecia Helecitas Varade
Drink store owner
59 years old, 2 children
Lucrecia has owned a drink store for the last 12 years, but has only worked with Promujer for 6 years. She decided to become a member of this institution because her daughter was already a customer and convinced her to join her group. She explained that she would prefer to obtain a loan individually and not through the group: “I work on my own here, and when I go to group meetings, I have to close my shop. It would be more practical for me to do it alone”. The group structure therefore requires some sacrifices from Lucrecia.
The money from the loan is used almost exclusively to increase her stock of merchandise: “I can buy in larger quantities, so I can take advantage of bulk discounts from my suppliers. For example, for every 100 cases of beer I purchase, they give me two cases for free. Before, I didn’t have enough capital to do this, and Promujer has helped me with that”. The premises where she works haven’t changed since she began working with the MFI, but her revenues have increased substantially: “The more capital you have, the more money comes in,” she said. The profits that this has generated have enabled her to enlarge her house and help her family. “I’m working for the benefit of my children”.
Lucrecia told us that when she joined Promujer, she participated in a short training program before receiving her first loan. Since then, she hasn’t participated in any of the training sessions, including the health program, as she doesn’t want to close her shop. However, she’s aware that these sessions are available on a regular basis.
Lucrecia feels capable of managing her income well, but she told us that many of her colleagues in her group need to be better trained: “90% of them don’t know how to use the money. They’re borrowing $200, $300, but they’re buying dresses and clothes. They don’t know how to manage money”. Fortunately, no one from her group has missed a repayment. The group’s strength comes into play during difficult times, said Lucrecia: “If there were a problem, we’d go to visit the woman in groups of two or three to help her. Thank God, no one has ever failed to make their repayments.”
She has already seen businesses fail, and has seen women find themselves penniless. In her opinion, these situations could have been avoided if the loan officer had monitored the businesses of certain borrowers more diligently, and had provided them with better guidance.
With Promujer, Lucrecia has started to save a little money, and she now has about $600. “I think I’ll use half to buy more goods,” she confided. However, she knows that this savings account is her safety net against hard times.