Tag Archives: women

A story I didn’t write

noel

Noel (right) and another colleague at our office in Port-au-Prince.

Loyalty and perseverance.  Makings of a great story.  These are the common themes in Josette’s story, a small business owner and World Concern microcredit client in Port-au-Prince.

I’m happy to share with you the story of Josette below, thanks to the hard work of Noel, one of our colleagues.  He is one of the Microcredit Promoters, which means  he and the other promoters are in the streets, markets and squares of Port-au-Prince almost daily, engaging with clients and offering them support and encouragement.  Here’s a story from one of the clients he visits on a regular basis.

Port-au-Prince, Josette Cézair ACLAM_1

Josette Cézair (left) is one of the most loyal and honest customers of our Microcredit Program.  For more than seven years, this woman has been working in this way. Despite the many difficulties that our country knows, she has always been disciplined and faithful to her commitments.

She was a victim of the Tabarre (neighborhood of Port-au-Prince) market fire in 2012 where she lost everything, including her merchandise.  Josette had many responsibilities, especially to her family and she did not know which way to turn.  Finally, like manna from heaven, she received a loan through World Concern’s emergency refinancing program allowing her to gradually regain her regular activities.

Now she has reached her ninth loan of 200,000 gourdes (approximately $4,500 USD) and thanks to this loan has completely re-launched her regular activities.

Thank you, Noel, for sharing with us this remarkable story.  Not only is this a great story, it represents a small victory for us as we work towards more teamwork as well.

In June we shared on our blog about our desire to collaborate more with the staff in Haiti who engage with beneficiaries often.  We gave them training and resources so they can help us gather photos and stories of the people World Concern is serving.

We said that through this process we hope to (a) create a spirit of collaboration, (b) further develop the skills of our co-workers in the areas of photography and interviewing, and (c) capture more stories to show our supporters exactly what we’re doing and who we’re serving.  On all three accounts we’re seeing slow but steady progress.

 

Why Lending To Women is a Smart Investment

Pignon is neat and clean with a population of around 48,000.  The paved and walkable streets, along with the laid back vibe of the place were a nice reprieve from the noise and chaos of Port-au-Prince, where we live.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__27

Isidor Jean-Pierre was giving us a walking tour of the city.  He is the World Concern Regional Coordinator in Pignon, central Haiti and earlier this week was our first visit to the office there.

We passed the city’s plaza, which has a small stage and sitting area, where Isidor explained they sometimes have concerts.  “Visiting church groups from other places in Haiti have played there before,” he said.

Soon we stopped at a brightly painted concrete building.  Here Isidor introduced us to Emilienne, a 35-year-old mother of four, who runs a business selling a variety of products like beverages, ketchup, and some food staples like beans.  “Rice and soap are the most popular,” she said, pointing to the boxes of soap sitting at the front of her shop to attract customers.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__15

Since 1998 World Concern has been serving small business owners in Pignon by providing loans and training.  The loans, taken individually or as a group, give people access to much needed capital to purchase products or other inputs and grow their business.

Emilienne received her first individual loan from World Concern in 2011 and is now on her second.  Although she has had this business for some time, the loans have allowed her to purchase different products and expand her stock.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__20“I buy the products in Hinche and Port-au-Prince mostly and a truck brings them here,” Emilienne explained.

Her shop is not the only one like it in Pignon.  There are many other shops or stands—some smaller, some bigger—selling similar products.  One of the challenges small business owners in Haiti like Emilienne face is how to stand out from the rest.  So I asked her how she competes.

“There is a shop over there,” she said, pointing.  “Some of my products are 10 gourdes cheaper.”  She answered quickly and confidently.  This was a woman who knew what she was doing.

Around midday we went back to the two room office where the four World Concern staff in Pignon work, and drank Cokes with Isidor.  I was thankful for a break from the heat.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__33

Our Pignon colleagues–Isidor is the really tall gentleman in the middle

Martha asked Isidor why so many of the microcredit clients in Pignon are women.  “If you lend money to the women, you know she will invest it in her own household,” he said.

His answer was profound yet not foreign.  It is one we have heard from a number of our colleagues around the country.  Empowering women often impacts not only the woman but also her family and community.  

The World Bank published a series of studies, including “Engendering Development” and “Gender Equality as Smart Economics,” where they show that women and girls reinvest an average of 90 percent of their income in their families, compared to a 30 to 40 percent reinvestment rate for men.  With a simple loan and basic business training, women like Emilienne are given the resources needed to succeed.

I need you to step inside Emilienne’s cultural context for a moment.  When I say succeed, don’t picture her buying a large house or a new car.  By succeed, I mean that she has consistent income and thus is able to continually provide food, clothing, shelter, and education to her immediate family and maybe even others around her.   Definitely something to congratulate her for.

Emilienne and her youngest child

Emilienne with her youngest child

Microcredit in the late 1990s

One project Martha and I are currently working on is creating a booklet highlighting World Concern’s work in Haiti over the past 30 plus years.  This means doing some serious digging through old reports and files looking for important dates, photos and milestones in our organizations history in Haiti.  It is tedious work but definitely has its benefits.  One such benefit is finding fascinating details about projects we implemented 5, 10 and 20 years ago.  While looking through a report today from December 1998 through May 1999, I found the story of a woman named Mrs. Joseph Duclehomme.  This woman was part of World Concern’s microcredit program and shared about her experience.   

Her story read like this:

“My name is Mrs. Joseph Duclehomme.  I have three children and I am a member of the village bank ‘Bank Tet Ansanm’ (Head Together).  This is my first loan in the association.  I borrowed 1,500 gourdes ($100) from World Concern Haiti for six months.  My principal activities are buying basic food from a market and selling it to another local market.  After each market trip, I make a little profit and save some money to pay my loan.  I have already reimbursed five months capital and interest.  Next month I will pay my last installment.  Thanks to this loan, I can now pay for tuition for my children.  Before the loan, I paid about 50 – 100 gourdes a month for a tithe for my church.  Since I got the loan, I now pay around 100 – 150 gourdes a month.  I love my church because this is the place where I meet God every week.  I hope to see World Concern supporting more women in this locality because there are so many needs.”

And this is just one of many stories I have stumbled upon so far while doing research.

Women_Credit Training_WC Project Report Dec 1998 - May 1999

So this picture looks super old thanks to the poor resolution and lack of color (since it was scanned with a black & white scanner) but it is actually from the same report as the story above in 1999. Here, women are being trained in business management before receiving their first loan with World Concern.

 Beginning in 1989, World Concern Haiti began offering small loans to low income small business owners.  This program continues to this day and currently provides services to over 5,000 clients across the country.  Many merchants in Haiti are women.  In Haiti women are the backbone of the economy.  Therefore supporting them in their income generating activities is very important to ensuring that families in Haiti are able to meet their basic needs.

It is encouraging to see how World Concern has been impacting people in Haiti for quite some time, and especially women through microcredit.

International Women’s Day – Celebrating Women in Haiti

Today is International Women’s Day 2013!  This global day is all about celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.  This year’s theme is “Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.”

Gender equality is crucial to the ability of families, communities, and societies to thrive.  Unfortunately many women globally, as well as in Haiti, face an uphill battle regarding equality.  At World Concern, we agree with Justine Greening, the U.K. Secretary of State for International Development when she said,

“Locking out women isn’t just bad for an economy, it’s bad for a society.  It seems common sense, but it’s still happening.”

Women and girls need to be protected, included, and empowered.  

We are excited to do our little part in celebrating this day by introducing you to some exceptional women World Concern has had the opportunity to meet and walk alongside in Haiti.  

 

Meet Lizette
35 years old
Mother of two
World Concern Microcredit Client & cook extraordinaire
“The loan allows me to buy more product and grow my business.”
Way to go Lizette!

Lizette10

Lizette11

Lizette12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Emmanuela
20 years old
Comes from a family of farmers
Intern at World Concern’s agricultural training center & future community educator
“I will be able to teach the farmers so we can move forward as a country.”
Now that is a woman with a vision.

Emanuela14

Emanuela13

Emanuela11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Bellia
Mother of two
Small business owner since 1997 selling clothing and accessories
World Concern Microcredit Client & savvy entrepreneur
How does she remain competitive?   “With my wisdom.  I smile and offer a good price.”  With a smile like this, how can she go wrong?

Bellia10

Bellia11

 

Thanks for your partnership in supporting women in Haiti!  I encourage you to visit the International Women’s Day website to learn more.  One way you can get involved with World Concern in this area (if you are a lady!) is to become a part of our Women of Purpose program.  This is a great way to learn about issues women face globally and to join us as we serve them in the places we work.

 

International Day of the Girl – Inspiration from two Women in Haiti

Today is the International Day of the Girl!  As I browse through forums, articles, and videos from people around the world that are passionate about the situation of girls, I feel it is both sobering and exciting.

Sobering to think of the magnitude of the challenges these girls are facing—illiteracy, school dropout, forced marriage, HIV and gender-based violence continue to dramatically affect girls’ lives around the world.  By 2015, females will make up 64% of the world’s (adult) population who cannot read (Education for All Global Monitoring Report in 2011).  On the other hand, an extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent and an extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)  There are solutions, but things are not going to change on their own.  We cannot be passive about this.  We have to invest in girls and women.

I read an article about The Girl Effect and they ask, “How do you start with a girl and end up with a better world?”  This is where the excitement comes in.  I am excited that people are asking these types of questions.  I am excited to see proof of the difference education can make in a girl’s life.  I am excited to have a part in empowering more girls like Kethia, who Austin shared about yesterday, to have access to life-changing education.  I am excited when I think of our time in Haiti and the women and girls we met there.

I met women like Rolande, who had received a micro-loan that enabled her to start and grow her small business.  She joyfully served us dinner from her little restaurant by the ocean.  But not only did she have a business, she had a means to send her little girl to school.

Rolande fixing dinner

I met women like Marie, who had overcome the loss of her husband, was raising 4 boys on her own, and was living a vibrant life despite being HIV positive.  Since receiving help and training from World Concern four years ago, she has joined World Cocnern to help train others who are HIV positive as well.

Marie telling us her story

These two women are an inspiring example of resilience and courage.  Through their stories, we see hope.  When given access to the resources they needed, they did not hesitate to make the most of it and they did not hesitate to invest back into those around them.  When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 per- cent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)

The sobering and exciting paradox is what can drive us to action.  I think about these women, that they were once girls, and how World Concern is working to provide opportunity and resources to girls and women.  We can look at young girls and see future Rolande’s and Marie’s—women who have overcome challenges and stepped beyond their current norms in the developing world.  I am eager we have the opportunity to serve in Haiti, invest in girls, and continue to share their stories of hope with you.

The Role of Women in Haiti

Martha and I have been privileged to meet several people in the Seattle area that have direct experience working in Haiti.  These new found friends have been a source of encouragement and have taught us much about what we can expect in Haiti.  One such friend invited us to join her this past week for a talk given by Anne-Christine d’Adesky, hosted by the World Affairs Council.  The talk was titled “What About the Women?  The role of women in post-quake Haiti” and focused on the difficulties facing women following the 2010 quake and highlighted some triumphs.  D’Adesky is a journalist, author, filmmaker, and gender rights advocate with extensive experience in Haiti so the stories and information she shared regarding women in Haiti was raw and telling.  Gender specific programs (both from aid groups and the public sector) in Haiti receive little funding in comparison to other sectors such as agriculture and health.  Additionally, women in Haiti are particularly vulnerable to domestic assault and sexual violence.  The fact that the country is still recovering from the massive earthquake over two years ago just exacerbates their plight.

Our experience and future work is within the context of community development and the non-government organization (NGO).  Therefore, I found myself asking the question “What does this information mean for NGOs, specifically for Martha and I in our future work, and how can we come alongside women in Haiti?”  D’Adesky provided some sound recommendations for what can be improved and two particularly stuck out to me:

1.  Bring women in Haiti to the table.  Include women in the decisions being made that effect their lives and families.  Allow them to participate not only in the rebuilding of their own lives and strengthening of their rights, but also in the rebuilding of their community and country.

2.  Give women’s programs and services the attention and financial support they deserve.

This talk gave us a deeper understanding of the situation for many women in Haiti today.  We hope to take this knowledge and turn it into action.  Martha and I don’t have a ton of influence or power, but the energy and skills we do have will certainly be used to empower and strengthen women in our sphere.  We are looking forward to sharing with you first hand about how World Concern is using its’ resources and leverage to support women in Haiti.  To see what World Concern is up to in Haiti please follow this link and then click on “Haiti” on the right hand side of the page.