Profiling Tepehua

By Moonyeen King
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tepehua-feb13In Ecuador, the foundation ATISM, is a project to support small business loans to indigenous women.

“The aim is to combat the effects of poverty in the different communities across Ecuador. The project weaves together the micro-management knowledge, which is generated through training work-shops, with alternative access to micro-credit, targeting job creation to ensure food security for a population.”

Actually, this movement is all over the third world.  Bangladeshi economist, Dr. Muhammad Yunas, winner of the Nobel Prize in 2006 for his creation of micro-financing in the 1970’s, experimented with connecting the world´s poorest with financial services the rest of us enjoy.

“Dr.Yunis found a group of women who made and sold bamboo stools. Although good sellers, the women lacked the capital required to start a business and had to borrow from local money sharks. Ultimately, they were stuck in a debt cycle. Dr. Yunis lent the group money at zero interest, and watched as they broke the debt cycle and started making a profit.”

This is called Micro-financing.  Micro-business, is setting women up in business and teaching them hands-on management of small business.  A Tepehua survey was made by interviewing women to see what they would achieve, if they could. Most wanted their own business, mainly so they could make money but also have their babies with them while they worked.

Micro-management/financing, offers a more sustainable solution than charity, it also creates accountability.

Tepehua Centro Communitario has already started micro-saving for the women registered at the Center. Two hundred and forty four women signed up and give anywhere between 10 and 200 pesos a month.  Collectively, they have reached 29,000 pesos, which has been put into short term investments for them. They can only draw for emergencies, or school supplies.  Teaching the women the value of saving, investment, and long term planning is a first step in the business-building process.

The Tepehua Centro Comunitario would like to pursue this vision.

Why not bring small business to Tepehua?  We would like to see a mini-mall, a plaza for a meeting place, an area for bartering and selling and buying - all managed by the women of Tepehua. It is possible.  The impossible takes a little longer.

The untapped strength in the barrio women is evident, in lemonade stands, second-hand clothing sold from their garages, new children’s clothing made by hand or machine and sold from a fence, recycling, making pastry and walking the beat selling it door to door. They know how to work and barter and keep family together at the same time. Both men and women know how to improvise to suit the needs of their families.  Tepehua Centro Comunitario intends to give the tools to these people; they will know how to use them.


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