Over 11,500 resource-poor women are participating in solidarity savings and loan groups in Ecuador through four local credit unions. For many women these solidarity groups are offering their first opportunity to open savings accounts and apply for loans. These women are using their new resources to improve their lives, the lives of their families and their communities through a variety of micro-businesses.
For the past three years, World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) has been introducing savings and credit education programs to credit unions in Ecuador through a project funded by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP) of the World Bank. WOCCU has also worked with Freedom From Hunger on outreach with this project. In conjunction with WOCCU's board meetings in Quito, Ecuador, board members had the opportunity to visit these credit unions and witness the impact of WOCCU's activities on the lives of Ecuadorians.
The board members participated in a graduation ceremony in the town of Latacunga, observing women graduating from being members of a solidarity group with membership in the credit unions to direct individual members of the credit union. Prior to participation in the solidarity groups, none of the women had the minimal financial resources to become direct members of the credit unions. Due to their income generation activities in the solidarity groups, this group of 10 of the 20 previously ineligible women became members.
In the small town of El Quinche, only a few miles from the equator, WOCCU board members observed a regular weekly meeting of one of the solidarity groups. Following the group's discussion on self- empowerment, each member repaid her loan. One of the women in the group, Margarita Tipan, operates two food stands seven days a week. The mother of seven and grandmother of four has used her US$300 loan from the solidarity group to buy two pigs. One of her stands sells fried pork outside the town's church on Sundays and she has found the cost of purchasing of pork outweighs her profits. She now is able to increase her profit by raising and butchering the animals herself. Margarita now has US$16.88 in savings and is looking forward to being able to becoming a full member of credit union.
"First-hand knowledge of the impact of WOCCU's work in Ecuador is a reminder of the transformative power of credit unions," indicated Bobby McVeigh, chairman of the board of WOCCU. "Witnessing the pride of these women as they became individual members of the credit union is something I will never forget."
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.