Luz y Esperanza (Light and Hope)
As a Kiva Fellow, one of my main duties is to bring you stories about entrepreneurs using microcredit to improve their lives. A few weeks ago, I met a remarkable entrepreneur called Neni. Neni is almost 28, she is married and has a 7 year-old daughter. When I arrived at her home, she kindly invited me to sit in her tiny kitchen and treated me to fried plantains and a portion of jell-o.
Neni started selling food when she was 20 years-old, after finding out she was pregnant. One day, she heard about Manuela Ramos/CrediMujer and she thought she could benefit from the small loans to get some of her business ideas off the ground. Because Manuela Ramos uses the community bank methodology, Neni had to be invited by a member of an existing community bank. Without an invitation and the approval of all the community bank members, Neni wouldn’t be able to join. Hoping she would be invited, Neni stood at the door of each bank meeting, watching and learning how things worked. However, none of the women in the bank knew her well enough to invite her and she wasn’t able to join. Not one to give up easily, Neni spoke with a loan officer and found out that if she could assemble a group of five more women interested in taking out small loans, she could start a “Grupo Mientras Tanto” (In the Meantime Group). With this group, they would only be able to borrow small sums, but if they managed to make their group grow to 20 -22 members, they could become a fully-fledged community bank with access to higher amounts of credit.
Excited by the possibility, Neni convinced five of her friends to join and start the group. They called themselves “Luz y Esperanza” (Light and Hope). Determined to make her group grow to a community bank, Neni would bring new members to every monthly meeting. In a few months, the group grew enough and became the Luz y Esperanza community bank. As the group organizer, Neni became its president, a position that she proudly holds until this day.
“I don’t stop” says Neni when she describes the variety of businesses she has undertaken. These days Neni sells beauty products, local dishes such as picarones and ceviche, and sweets like jell-o and popsicles. Listening to her speak so passionately and energetically about what she’s done, I ask about her hopes for the future. For a minute she thinks about it. She tells me that she had wanted to study business administration but because she had her daughter she couldn’t afford to pursue that dream.
I will never know what her life path could have been if Neni had been born in a country where she could have coupled her talent and energy with more education and opportunities. However, I believe that microfinance allows women like Neni not only to earn income to feed their children, but also to put some of their ideas, leadership and creative energy into action. After meeting Neni, and hundreds of other women entrepreneurs, I believe that Light and Hope seems like the most fitting name for a community bank.
Hi, my name is Diana Rodriguez Wong reporting from Tarapoto, Peru.
To support Peruvian women entrepreneurs like Neni please visit the Manuela Ramos/CrediMUJER loan page or join the new Manuela Ramos lending team.