“You can fight and overcoming the barriers, saying I won’t be anymore a slave of my husband and society”

Rosario  is 34 years old (fictitious name and age) and lives in Maldonado, Carchi, a rural border region of Ecuador where are coexisting Colombian persons fleeing from the armed conflict and the autochthon population. Despite the economic and social problems in the area, she and 22 other female have created the “Banco Comunitario de Mujeres de Maldonado”, supported by Alianza por la Solidaridad, and the association “Mujeres de Tradición y Cultura”. We have had and interesting interview with her about both projects.

>> How was born the idea of creating a community bank?

It was born three years ago; all women who needed money decided to create a small community bank because we were renting money to “Chulco” with a 10% interest. The bank has been benefiting us a lot, now we only paid 2%, which in the end is a small support for all members. We use the money to small businesses such as kebabs selling, little shops, cows for milk, etc.

  >> So, how are the loans working?

Covenants are through word, we just need an accounting document because we want to reuse the customs of our ancestors based on solidarity and trust. That’s why we have refused to accept proposals from big banks; we can and we want to manage it in our way.

So far, we’ve created the background that is an asset that cannot be removed, but at the end of the year we have some earnings (profits). If a member decides to retire her money, it is returned and also the interests, with all honesty.

>> Women participants are committed to the bank?

Yes, every year we make an assessment, so far we haven’t had 1% of problems because we are all very responsible. There have been only two people who were late to return the money although we gave them a lot of facilities; at the end we decided that they won’t participate any more in the bank.

Every weekend we organize a meeting to take coffee, save money and decide whether or not there is money to lend. We like to seek time for the bank because it is our space as women; in the past many members were only dedicated to work at home and in the field. When we met we forget everything, we laugh… but if suddenly we see that a woman has a difficulty we also took the opportunity to lift her mood.

>> Have you carried out activities to earn extra money for the bank?

Yes, we are also the group “Mujeres de Tradición y Cultura”; there we want to rescue the old traditions. So, we participate in events, food fairs and cultural performances; each partner makes an investment of 20.000 pesos in products and all sales profits goes to the bank capital. With this money sometimes we also support the parish or someone who is having a bad time, we are present in the community with a lot of love.

>> What the rest of the community think about your project?

Sexism still exists in Carchi, it is not necessarily from the family, but also from the community. Sometimes people criticize or laugh at us for being women, but we have overcome these difficulties, we have fought and now we are happy.

>> What would you like to say to women who have not yet been organized and that are suffering the problem of machismo?

I would say that it’s just a matter of making a decision, say yes and no backing down. You can fight and overcoming the barriers, saying to yourself “I want to be an enterprising woman; I won’t be anymore a slave of my husband and society”. In addition, you can participate with beautiful events like leadership and self-esteem trainings ‘; but there will be a change only if you are working together with other women.

>> How would like to see your group in a few years?

We hope that our goals are achieved, not just the ones from the bank, we also want to maintain our tradition and culture. We want to integrate more people into the group of women to hold together and to have representation in Carchi. Thanks to the support of NGOs, such as the training of Alianza por la Solidaridad, we are being able to improve.

In addition, I would like to say that here are beautiful traditions in Maldonado, amazing nature, many tourist spots, waterfalls, rivers, clean water, etc. we want people to come and meet our Carchi. ¿Why people want to go away and do not appreciate what we have in the parish of Maldonado?

Written by Laura Sancho