In August of this year, Negros Women For Tomorrow celebrated its 25th anniversary. The organization commemorated the occasion with an extravagant party titled “Handum” (Dream) with 6,000 attendees, including staff, borrowers, partners, and a pre-recorded message from the godfather of microfinance himself, Muhammad Yunus. Yunus catapulted microfinance into the mainstream in 2005 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Naturally, most people (including myself until a few months ago) think that it is a fresh, new approach to economic development and poverty alleviation. At 25 years old, however, NWTF is hardly fresh or new.
As a means of immortalizing the 25-year anniversary, the organization created a book of 25 of the most inspiring stories from its borrowers. In this blog, I’ve tried to lay out the history and mission of the organization to frame or provide context for other stories. The foreword to the book, written by the founder of the organization Dr. Cecilia del Castillo, offers a much clearer description of the organization. I quote it in its entirety here: Continue reading
Success in microfinance is difficult to measure because progress occurs incrementally and may take a generation or more to manifest. Usually, the benefits of microfinance – improvements in healthcare, education, and quality of life – are only visible over a longer timeframe. For industry practitioners and evangelists, the tangible success stories among recipients of microloans are valuable proof of its efficacy. On a recent trip to Valladolid, I was fortunate enough to meet one of the most successful NWTF clients in the foundation’s 25-year history.
The Galvez family around the dinner table
The visit to the Galvez family farm was the last stop on a three-day trek through Pontevedra and the surrounding communities. The borrowers I’d met previously mostly operate small businesses that are reliant – directly or indirectly – on the rice- and sugar-farming industries that dominates the region. Homes are modest in size, made from bamboo, aluminum and concrete, with few rooms and, more often than not, earthen floors. And of course, like 80% of NWTF’s clientele, the women live below the poverty line. The Galvez family – Milagros, the matriarch, Lorito, her husband, and their three children, Lawrence, Lori, and Lori Mae – once lived a similar life, until a loan from Project Dungganon (NWTF’s microcredit loan program) allowed them to grow their small sari-sari store into an empire. Eight years ago, the family lived in a house made of bamboo. With the profits of their many businesses, the Galvez’ were able to upgrade to something better.