Collaborating our way to economic empowerment - A workshop on financial inclusion

“I have hope again. I’ve fixed my bed, I’ve bought my stove, I have my savings. What’s holding me back?...Nothing!”

This was the story shared by one of the project participants of the Good Shepherd Sisters’ financial inclusion projects in Central America at the three-day workshop, which took place last July in El Salvador.

Over twenty Sisters, Mission Partners & project participants from across Central America took part in the workshop focused on strengthening current financial inclusion projects and collaboratively building a regional approach to better support people living in vulnerable situations across the region.Using a participatory approach, the workshop gave the attendees the opportunity to not only define the Theory of Change and collective vision for the future, but also to celebrate the growth and impact the projects have had over the last two years since the first workshop on financial inclusion took place in Costa Rica in 2015.

The male-dominated, machismo culture prevalent across Central America threatens to keep women suppressed within their family, work and community. A recent public opinion poll in Nicaragua on perceptions of family violence and femicide (the murder of women because they are women [1]) showed that over 60% of the population believe that the female victim is solely or partly to blame for her death.

For this reason, the financial inclusion projects have developed a methodology that combines access to affordable finance with personal empowerment and technical skills development and group solidarity formation as a holistic response to the challenges faced by women in the communities on a daily basis. The workshop was facilitated by the team at the Mission Development Office in Latin America and took the results from the recent diagnostic undertaken by Tracy Collier, currently on secondment in the region from Good Shepherd Microfinance from the Province of Australia New Zealand/Aotearoa.

Under a program called ‘Solidarity for Financial Inclusion’, which is a collaborative effort led by the Good Shepherd International Foundation and supported by the Central American, North American and Australian New Zealand/Aotearoa provinces, the attendees and facilitators have set the audacious task to refine and document the methodology and processes of the Central American projects and to share the model with other Good Shepherd provinces to adopt and adapt to their specific contexts.

[1] WHO, Understanding and addressing violence against women, 2012