DAY 12, NOVEMBER 8, 2007
We started off the day in the Salon of the Plaza Hotel in La Paz with the presentation of Pro Mujer. Vivianne Romero, General Manager, Hugo Bellott, Operations Manager, Neisa Vasquez, Research and Development Manager, Waldo Claros, Financial Manager, Rolando Ramos, Mananger in charge of Training, and Sandra Villarreal, Health Coordinator, presented general information about the institution—which was founded 17 years ago—its structure, development, growth, efficiency and sustainability. They also presented the credit technology they are currently using: the communal bank.
Afterwards we made a field visit to two Focal Centres in El Alto. In order to facilitate translation, we divided into two groups: the Spanish-speakers visiting the Sensata Centre and the non-Spanish speakers visiting the Juan Pablo II Centre.
El Alto, well-named for its 4,000 meters of elevation, was originally a satellite community of La Paz. Serving as the entrance for immigrants from the rest of the country—especially the recently arrived from rural areas—its population grew considerably and it is presently a city in its own right. The bustling street markets are an imperative characteristic of El Alto, with street vendors selling fruit and vegetables, second-hand clothes and shoes, and many other items.
Pro Mujer’s client base are women who live in conditions of socio-economic exclusion, with low levels of education and a high incidence of illiteracy. They have very limited access to traditional financial services.
The two groups attended training sessions carried out by various Communal Associations, with their payment meetings, and also saw the Health Clinic. We talked at length with the women and they told us about their businesses, the development of their association, their experience with the Communal Bank and their use of credit.
It was a moving experience and one that revealed the harsh reality facing so many poor women living in semi-urban and rural parts of Bolivia. We were impressed by the human development and financial services Pro Mujer offers, and their commitment to helping their clients achieve a better quality of life.
Back at the hotel we had our synthesis workshop. Following a brief rest we attended a Bolivian Thematic Panel. Fernando Prado presented Interinstitutional Alliances: The Case of ASOFIN; Carla Solares presented the Regulatory Framework, Financial Entities and the Superintendency of Banks; and Reinaldo Marconi from Finrural addressed the non-regulated financial entities.
We closed a very full day with dinner in the Penthouse of the hotel, the lights of La Paz climbing up the steep valley and mingling with the stars overhead. And afterwards, a very necessary rest.
Patricia Acosta (Honduras)
“There are many positive points to be highlighted in Pro Mujer. We liked the scale and institutional growth; their human resources; and their financial sustainability. We also found there was coherence between their organizational mission and the services they offer. The fact that they carry out studies to identify the economic, social and cultural characteristics of their clients is very positive. They belong to the international Pro Mujer network and have been able to form solid strategical alliances. They offer a wide range of financial services have a high quality portfolio. We also believe that their capacity for delegating responsibility to the directives of the communal banks is very favourable.”
Jean Paul Lacoste (Belgium)
“We found Pro Mujer to be an excellent organization but as in everything, nothing is perfect. Some of the weaknesses that we identified are: the fact that savings are made through other financial entities; the high turnover of staff; the lack of motivation and the high dropout rate among clients; the lack of an internal savings fund which would benefit their clients; the high cost the training sessions impose on clients in terms of loss of income and transportation; and the slowness of delivering credit. These are some of the challenges the organization will have to address in the future.”