Peruvian Rut Pelaiza has shared in United Nations how she once earned a living as a street vendor, until she started to work at BBVA Microfinance Foundation, which gave her hte opportunity to train other women like her, proving that they prosper and provide for their children
In an event hosted by BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) “Women as forerunners of change” about women, financial inclusion and digital transformation, held at the United Nations New York headquarters, Peruvian Rut Pelaiza has shared how being a loan officer for the Foundation helped her recover the self-esteem that her husband destroyed. “I spent a long time believing that I wasn’t worth anything, until I started to work and saw for myself what I was able to do”, says Rut.
When her husband abandoned her, far from giving up, she spent two years selling clothes and food to provide for her daughters until she started to work for BBVAMF’s Peruvian institution. Thanks to her efforts, her eldest, 22 years of age, studies in the university; the middle one, 16, wants to take up Business Administration and the youngest, 9 years old, is in elementary. Her story of overcoming this challenge inspires other women whom she helps, through the Foundation, so they could have access to microcredits or a savings account.
This is the case of Sandra Mendoza, a coffee grower and cattle breeder served by BBVAMF in Colombia. She has shared how a female farmer and head of household like her can prosper despite the obstacles: “In the farm, sexism is the toughest hurdle to conquer”. With the Foundation’s support, she has implemented more sustainable and cautious crop-growing techniques, aside from producing energy in a healthier way.
Thanks to her determination and leadership skills, Sandra has become the first female president of the local Coffee Growers Committee and has created the Association for Female Coffee Growers. Her achievements shatter the barriers usually present in rural areas, and paves the way towards equality. As noted by Colombian vice president, Marta Lucía Ramírez, facilitating access to financial services, financial education and skills training is key to progress, “with digital innovation, public policies and institutions like the BBVA Microfinance Foundation which support these women’s efforts, we shall be able to grow faster and achieve genuine peace.”
According to the UN Women regional director for the Americas and the Caribbean, Luiza Carvalho, “for women to have the same rights as men when accessing a loan is essential for development, not only for these women, also for their communities and for the entire region.” For her part, Ibero-American Secretary-General, Rebeca Grynspan, has added that gender equality “is not an individual struggle of each woman, but of everyone in society” and that being in favor of such struggle is to be “on the right side of history”.
All have agreed that Rut and Sandra are proof that women still have to rise above a lot of obstacles in Latin America, and that for the most unequal region in the world, development has to go through their empowerment. The event organized by the Foundation, together with the Permanent Missions of Peru and Colombia to the United Nations, Un Women and the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), has been held during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), the principal forum on gender equality which takes place annually in the UN.
In the course of two weeks, development organizations, NGO, foundations and governments gather to discuss the advances made, as well as “what” and “how much” still need to be done. “It’s important for us to be here, to address development and women issues, two concepts that cannot be understood on their own, and two pillars of the Foundation, which serves more than 2 million entrepreneurs in five Latin-American countries so they could progress. Half of them, women”, confirmed BBVA Microfinance Foundation CEO, Javier M. Flores.