PRO MUJER is a non-profit, non governmental organization. It began its activities in 1990, designing and developing social programs under a participatory scheme, involving a technical team as well as the local population. The institution was created with the vision to "Develop Women's Potentialities" and eliminate the attitude of dependency on assistance-oriented programs.

In 1991, PRO MUJER implemented the program denominated "Training and Development of Women's and their Family's Potentialities " in the city of
El Alto. The women who participated in this program began to request services that would allow them to adopt more concrete actions, aimed at improving their standard of living. The idea of establishing a credit program that would meet the needs of these women emerged based on this need.

In 1992, the program "Training in basic business skills and community associations" was launched. During that year PRO MUJER trained 1,500 women in the "Development of Potentialities" and 500 women received training in basic business skills and community associations so they could have access to PRO MUJER's credit program.

In 1993 the credit program was reorganized based on the principle of self-sustainability. To succeed in this new endeavor, a number of structural changes were made to the credit technology, increasing the responsibilities of field personnel and establishing procedures to ensure efficiency. A year later the operations were expanded to the city of Cochabamba. Three months later PRO MUJER began working in two additional cities: Sucre and Tarija.

In a parallel manner, a number of initiatives were developed with the aim of strengthening the existing services and meeting the clients' demand. This crystallized into training actions in health and coordination with health facilities in the region. PRO MUJER also began to provide training to young women who needed to develop working skills and access to job opportunities through an employment office.

Financial credit and savings services were implemented in all four regional offices as well as non-financial services such as management development and basic health. Each one of these services begins with a pilot phase. This allows the institution to evaluate the operational efficiency, the quality of service delivery and the weaknesses with the purpose of adjusting them to each particular surrounding.

PRO MUJER offers financial as well as non-financial services, which are provided applying an integral approach. Financial services are provided using a methodology based on community associations, and these include credit and savings. Community associations constitute an efficient means to provide access to credit to a significant number of women at the same time. The women themselves do a large part of the work in the approval and granting of loans and ensuring the punctual repayment of loans.

PRO MUJER provides loans to community associations, which are formed by 5 or 6 solidarity groups. The associations secure the loans and manage them, through their board and a credit committee. Additionally, this type of organization allows for the development of a community-based savings system that generates profits for the clients.

Loans are granted in cycles of 3 to 8 months. The loans are sequential and range from 100 to 1,000 U.S. dollars. They are subject to a weekly repayment until the organization is consolidated. Thereafter this frequency is increased to bi-monthly payments. The groups of 25 to 30 women receive training in community association management and administration. This initial training is offered in 7 sessions. It is a participatory way to assist and guide women in their efforts to form, organize and manage community associations.

Non-financial services are aimed at improving access to management development and health services for PRO MUJER's clients as well as their families, in order to improve their living conditions and support them in their endeavors to overcome their social and economic exclusion.

In the area of health services there are also two components. Training in preventive maternal and child health as well as sexual and reproductive health. The second component is primary health care. The institution has implemented health posts in its different branches, thus the clients can have access to health services when they attend their association's repayment meetings or every time they go to the branch,

In response to the constant search for efficiency, PRO MUJER has developed an operational strategy that allows the concentration of a significant number of clients in the branches known as "Focal Centers". The Focal Centers allow the institution to assert its presence in different geographical areas and facilitate the provision of integral services.

By the end of the July 2001, PRO MUJER had a total of 10 branches (Focal Centers) in the city of El Alto, 6 in Cochabamba, 3 in Tarija, and 5 in Sucre. Additionally, in Sucre and Cochabamba there are neighborhood centers, which will consolidate in time into focal centers. To date the institution has 1,547 community associations, comprising 28,606 clients.

Operational Data
July 2001
Number of branches (Focal enters)
Percentage of female clients
Community associations
Current borrowers
Gross portfolio
US$ 3,505,310
Default with PRO MUJER

The population's demand and the enhanced quality of service delivery have allowed PRO MUJER to grow constantly in terms of the number of clients. However, the economic recession the country is currently going through and the adverse economic conditions that the target population is facing, have led to a slow portfolio growth.

The benefits of the financial and non-financial services not only reach the clients, but indirectly their families, above all through the improvement of the family income and access to health services.

Microfinance In Bolivia Today

At times, market reforms fail entirely or have unintended consequences for poor people. The lessons of these failures point to the importance of designing and implementing reforms in a way that is measured and tailored to the economic, social, and political circumstances of a country. Market-friendly reforms create winners and losers. And when the losers include poor people, societies have an obligation to help them manage the transition (World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty).

As recommended by World Bank experts, this last one reflects pointedly what microfinance institutions, and particularly their clientele, have experienced in Bolivia.

It is evident that market reforms as well as the economic recession have not benefited "the poor". Supportive measures to the market reforms, such as the Customs Law and the eradication of the coda plantations, have had direct negative effects on the economic activities of the low income sectors of the population, already affected by the severe economic crisis in the country.

The results have been immediate as evidenced in the difficulties, contraction, and bankruptcy of hundreds of micro-enterprises, and in the increase of delinquency in the loan portfolios of the financial system, particularly the microfinance institutions that service a clientele living "in poverty".


By Lic. Carmen Velasco, Executive Director, Pro Mujer, Bolivia

 Editor : Muhammad
Executive Editor : Khalid Shams 
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