There are billions of people in the world that live on less than $2 a day, among them are the women of Latin America. These women are some of the most economically and socially disadvantaged people in the region. Traditionally they work harder than anyone else around them, so why do they continue to live second class lives? In 1990 Lynne Paterson and Carmen Velasco established Pro Mujer to help address this problem. From the beginning the organization’s main objective has been to empower the women of Latin America by helping them develop their basic business and entrepreneurial skills, while also providing them access to micro-financing. Pro Mujer is a non-profit organization and is currently operating in 5 countries throughout Central and South America including: Bolivia, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico and most recently Argentina.
Pro Mujer offers the impoverished women of Latin America with the opportunity to start their own business and provide for their families. Earning income and owning a business gives them a sense of purpose and ultimately elevates them within the hierarchy of needs. The existing traditional village structure in Latin America allows for a high degree of accountability through financial lending among the participants. A percentage of the profits made from these investments goes back to Pro Mujer to fund the organization’s own operating expenses. Along with providing entrepreneurial skills, Pro Mujer offers basic health care and teaches childcare skills to its members at its facilities. The facilities also serve as a womans’ refuge and social space.
The business model of Pro Mujer is strategically designed and more sustainable than a model based solely on receiving donations, while their focus on human development furthers the standard of living for Latin American women rising them up from the bottom of the pyramid.