Hitting Their Stride
By Helen Greene
Development & Communications Associate
This year, Newton Running and Trickle Up joined forces to help women in Lachuá, Guatemala, create their own small businesses. Now, a year after starting the program, four young women from the Flor de Santa Cruz savings group share their stories of overcoming obstacles, building successful businesses, and beginning the journey out of extreme poverty.
Approximately 50% of Guatemalan youth are poor and 15% live in extreme poverty, and much of this endemic poverty is concentrated in rural indigenous communities. Lachuá is home to several indigenous Mayan groups and is characterized by high levels of extreme poverty due in part to low levels of education, limited access to government social services, and high incidences of early pregnancy for young women. Together, these factors put women and their children at higher risk of malnutrition, disability, and death. Yet, patriarchal norms and local taboos limit the spread of information to young women regarding their sexual and reproductive health and rights, disempowering them and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
To address both the economic and social barriers facing young women and girls in the community of Santa Cruz el Nacimiento, a small enclave in Lachuá, Newton Running sponsored the women of Flor de Santa Cruz savings group. With the help of Trickle Up and our local partner FundaLachuá, 11 young women increased their incomes, accessed credit, saved for their families’ futures, and learned about reproductive health and rights.
A little over a year ago, Hilda, Rutilia, Elvira, and Mirna began a journey to confront extreme poverty by coming together with seven of their neighbors to find a voice in their households and communities, build new friendships, and motivate each other. In just one year, the members of Flor de Santa Cruz saved an average of $35 each, with one member saving $53! They also created a communal fund to act as a small insurance plan for their community, helping each other to cover medical costs when they get sick and providing money to elderly women living in extreme poverty in the community.
The women of Flor de Santa Cruz told us: “we want to save more and achieve more profits.”
Hilda and her sister Flora Adelaida started a family business selling clothes to nearby communities. After the first year, they had generated $1,101 in total earnings. With their profits they have been able to pay for education, afford healthcare and medicine, and buy more nutritious food and fertilizer for their small farm. Flora tells us: "The business is very good. In times when there is no money, the business helps cover household expenses."
Mirna has already diversified her sources of income, selling new types of clothes based on customer’s requests and raising two chickens, two ducks, and a pig. With her fellow savings group members, she learned key information about sexual and reproductive health and rights. Through these trainings, Mirna says, "I learned what the risks are if I marry and get pregnant at an early age, and the responsibility that implies. Now is not the right age."
Elvira’s business selling clothes has been extremely successful – she significantly increased her working capital in one year. From the $75 seed capital from Trickle Up, she now has $450 and plans to open a store in the next few months. Elvira feels proud of her accomplishments: "With my productive activity, I can support my brother so he can continue with his studies." In turn, her brother also helps with her business. A few months ago, he bought a motorcycle and now drives his sister to other towns to sell her products.
Rutilia and her sisters began selling chicken in the community, and bought a freezer to keep their stock fresh for longer. After a relatively successful first few months despite competition from other chicken vendors, they decided to adapt their business plan to sell ice cream, utilizing their freezer in a new way. In one year, Rutilia and her three sisters saved $145 combined. As part of the program trainings on women’s empowerment and reproductive health and rights, the sisters learned about self-esteem, equality of rights, and that "we have the same rights as men." Rutilia tells us her plans for the future: "I hope I have money to be able to buy a plot of land and have a home."
We’d like to thank Newton Running for their generosity in helping these 11 young women and girls build brighter futures and break the cycle of poverty. This groundbreaking partnership is just one example of Trickle Up’s many corporate partners. Have a creative idea on how to partner with Trickle Up to create sustainable economic and social empowerment for women globally? We’d love to work with you! Check out the many ways to give to Trickle Up to contact us and start a beautiful new partnership.