One of Venezuela’s most important public institutions created to assist impoverished women through micro- credit lending celebrated its 10-year anniversary last week.
Banmujer first came into existence on September 21, 2001 as government run bank with the specific purpose of funding socio-productive business initiatives for women in particularly dire economic conditions. Since that time, the women’s bank has granted more than 138 thousand micro-credits, benefiting over 300,000 families in the country, Banmujer President Nora Castañeda said in an interview last week.
“Poverty has a woman’s face. This is even more evident when you look at the statistics that indicate 70 percent of world’s poor are women”, Castañeda said.
According to the bank’s president, the institution is currently active in 335 municipalities around the Caribbean country and 90 percent of Banmujer’s clients are women. Since it’s founding, more than 20,000 jobs have been created through the bank’s initiatives while in 2011 alone, the funding institution has provided more than 6,000 micro-loans to groups and individuals for productive projects.
Much of the assistance is not confined to money, the official pointed out, but rather includes a holistic program of training and assistance to help ensure the success of a particular project.
“The Women’s Bank isn’t just about granting micro-credits. It’s also about granting free, non-financial services such as education and training, technical assistance, as well as guidance before, during and after the approval of the credit.
The overall objective is to guarantee women can pay the credit and carry out their project”, Castañeda affirmed. With respect to the role of women in society, the public servant corrected a commonly held misconception in Venezuela that associates the fight for women’s rights with advocating for female supremacy.
“Housework should be done by both the man and the woman, just like community and socio-productive work. We’re not trying to substitute men. What we want is a more democratic society where men and women live in conditions of equality”, she said.
As for political will, Castañeda praised the efforts of the Chavez government to prioritize the issue of economic empowerment as a way to combat the feminization of poverty.
“The national government has been facilitating the organization of the people to be sovereign and protagonistic through the development of economic activity…Women have gained a lot with this revolution and that’s why we’re working for the elections in 2012 so that Chavez stays in power”, she declared.
Marcos Parra, Coordinator of Banmujer’s Urban and Semi-Urban Agricultural program informed last Monday that the women’s financial institution has funded more than 1,200 projects designed to increase food production and sovereignty in Venezuela. Historically, about 22 percent of Banmujer’s projects have been destined
towards the South American nation’s agricultural sector.
Parra informed that many of the credits have been approved for the cultivation of crops in the areas surrounding large metropolitan centers such as Caracas. Vegetables such as spring onions, cilantro and lettuce comprise the bulk of community production while in some areas, small scale animal husbandry has also been funded.
The bank has also been providing a stimulus for the government’s initiative “Productive Lawns” to encourage residents to take advantage of small urban spaces of 100 to 500 square meters for local agricultural production and consumption.