I had the privilege to be in Haiti when the first loan group of 2016 were awarded their loans. These women are using the loans to expand their businesses of buying beans, rice, used clothes and cosmetics and reselling the products in the local market. I asked them if they thought this program was beneficial for their community. The women looked at me quizzically, murmured among themselves and then informed me that they wouldn’t be wasting their time on a Friday afternoon if they didn’t think this program was helpful!
As part of the first meeting, the women are taught to work together to help each other succeed. They role play different situations and then sing a song of solidarity, which translates to “working hand in hand”. A group leader is chosen who then distributes the funds to the other members, after which they all sign a contract requiring them to repay the loan amount monthly at an interest rate of 2%.
P1010076 Click on this link to see a video of the women singing their solidarity song
The women were asked to discuss the advantages of a loan that is given to women rather than men. These are some of their comments.
-The wife should be the keeper of the money because she will use it for the household rather than for herself
-A mother pays equally for her sons and daughters
-Women feel more obligation to repay their loans than men.
When asked to discuss the disadvantages of a loan, the women were slower to respond. Soon everyone erupted in laughter to one of the women’s responses. This woman was worried that her husband, who usually spent most of his time away from the house, would begin to stay at home more when he knew that she had extra money and eat up all of her profits as well as be a nuisance!
At the conclusion of the meeting, Frico, the agronomist with USAID who helps to administer the loans, spoke about the Haitian women who continue to wait for loans and that the future of the program depends on the success of each of the groups to payback their loans. A fitting end to describe an initiative that has thus far benefitted 225 women in rural Haiti.