It is always uplifting to meet with the women involved in the Amurtel Micro Credit (MC) and Self Help (SH) groups.
Currently Amurtel is partnering with over 1000 women in Haiti, including 90 women in the Port au Prince area, close to 900 women in the Banaan area in the southeast. Most recently we were able to provide micro credit to 80 women, who lost their homes and livelihood after Hurricane Matthew slammed through their villages in the Les Caye area.
The women in the SHG and MC groups meet together once a week, supporting each other as they face challenges and in their endeavor to develop financial security for themselves and their families. The women in the Port au Prince area have worked together now for more than 7 years, and are interested in creating joint cooperative ventures among 3 or 4 of the groups. This is exciting as it will afford more jobs and provide an avenue for their daughters to move into leadership roles as they grow up. In the Banaan area, the women have been meeting together now for more than 6 years.
At a recent meeting with the leaders of the Banaan MC program, we requested the women to share some of their personal stories.
Our coordinator Ilda shared one of the most moving stories I’ve heard so far:
“It came to one group’s attention there was a woman being badly abused by her husband in an area outside their village. They went enmass to confront the man, calling him out on his violent behavior, and threatening him with dire consequences if he didn’t stop beating his wife. He was shocked at the confrontation and agreed to their demands, which included signing a statement that he would no longer beat her. After the group left, he turned to his wife, who was not part of the Self Help program, and encouraged her to join. He said to her, “These women are so strong and so powerful now, even though you aren’t part of their group, they came here and stood up for you. You too should join with them and fight for other women.” She in turn was so shocked and encouraged by this turn around that she went down to the village and asked to join. She is now an active part of the program and reports there is no longer abuse in her home.”
Virginie has been working with SHG and MC since they were first formed. She has gone from a shy woman who held back from participating in the meetings to being a very strong voice in a leadership position. She reports:
“Since starting in 2011, I really feel it improved my life. Life in my family, life in my community, the health of our economy. This group has given me more understanding and sensitivity to each other. One person’s problem becomes everyone’s problem. We have to have solidarity for this to work; there is no other alternative. Micro-credit loans have been very helpful, it gives some life to our activity. Our economic power in reinforced by the loans. The women are very happy with the program.”
Iliana shared this story: “I am happy with the activities Amurtel brought us—business training, how to live together, how to get things done, how to get work. I see more needs in order to reach farther and faster, we need more training and knowledge. We each received 4000 Goudes and were able to improve a little, but with more money we will have more activity.”
Rosanna added: “I appreciate Ilda (the animator for the group). We didn’t have anything, but with microcredit we can start a little business. I make bread, little cakes and custard. It is going well.”
And Geralda, a group leader for a number of years said: “The first meetings, women didn’t have much hope. Then, we see good things coming, things are changing. Microcredit helps them get started in business and helps to send their kids to school with food. We have a lot of activities with Ilda. Thank you for your courage and work.
When asked what kind of training Amurtel could offer, they answered with “Business management skills and marketing. Crafts and skills to produce goods.” It is obvious these women want to continue to grow and develop and are hungry to learn.
As more funding comes in for Micro Credit, Amurtel will include more of the hundreds of women waiting to participate. And we will continue to celebrate this powerful grass-roots transformation, as women take on leadership in providing for their families and their own growth.