Empowering women like Consolate in Burundi means that all eight of her children will have access to food, education, and basic healthcare.
Vicenta is a poultry vendor in Southeastern Bolivia. As a member of a Five Talents' savings group she's received training and access to loans to develop her business.
If you ask Sabina to describe how her life has changed since joining a savings group, you had better listen up and have a pen handy. The Bolivian woman barely pauses to think before the stories start flowing out of her.
Before joining a savings group, Sabina had knitted clothes for sale in Argentina. But when demand fell and prices dropped, her micro-enterprise no longer made financial sense. She had a strong skill, but where could she focus it? A thought hit her when she learned of a need for a knitting teacher.
"I could never have imagined being a teacher, but I encouraged myself to apply as a knitting teacher in a school, and they accepted me," Sabina said. "Now, I am helping many poor children to knit sweaters and scarves for themselves. I have always spoken like a teacher to other people, and now when people call me 'teacher,' I feel very good and special, and I have even more desire to teach."
Before joining a savings group, Sabina was reluctant to leave her home and talk to others. She lacked confidence. And she had little say in financial affairs at home, where she and her husband have raised seven children.
"I was very quiet and suspicious of people. I was also very timid," Sabina recalled. "I eventually joined a group because of my friend. She always told me that it is important to save for emergencies and to have capital for a business. At first, I didn't want to join the group, but she insisted that I try it, so I joined and began to save small amounts."
A year later, and to her great surprise, Sabina was nominated to be the group's president. "The other women in the savings group [had begun to] put a lot of confidence in me. When I was named president, this made me feel very happy."
With the income generated by her teaching and occasional knitting projects, Sabina continues to build up her savings.
"I am saving a lot because I know that the pre-military fees for my son will be very costly, and also my daughter leaves for her bachelor's degree this year," she said.
Her success in business and her development as a person has also caught the attention of her children and husband.
"Before, I had to depend on my husband," she said. "Now, I also give my opinion in my home, and my husband entrusts more responsibilities to me. I offer more ideas in the house, and I'm finding that I am more patient and happy with my children."
Your support of Five Talents' programs make stories like Sabina's possible. Click here to make a donation of $10, $25 or $50 and provide more women and men access to savings groups, micro-business loans and business skills training.
Simona, a 55-year-old mother of seven, runs a micro-business selling empanadas and other food in Tarija, Bolivia. She is a member of a savings group organized by Five Talents' local partner in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings). Here, Simona opens up about her life, her husband's health, and her experience participating in a savings group.
"I [was born] in the countryside, near Camargo, a beautiful land where there is a lot of fruit. As I am female and my family is very poor, I didn't go to school. We worked in the field, but I liked to sell vegetables and fruit more than planting and harvesting, so I always went with my parents into the city to sell.
"Later, I got married and had seven sons. My life was very difficult. I wanted my sons to have the opportunity to study, so we went to live in the city, but [there it] was even more difficult. There wasn't enough money, and my husband, who worked as a bricklayer, began to drink.
"One day he had a stroke, and [for a while] he couldn't move. Little by little, he began to recover, but he was still very angry because he couldn't work or do anything. He always sat at the door chewing coca leaf and looking at people angrily.
"Two years ago, I began to sell food and empanadas to earn money. I didn't sell much, and my husband sat by my side angrily watching as people walked by on the street without buying anything.
"However, one day I was invited to join a savings group. Out of curiosity I went. They taught us about saving and lending the money [to one another]. I had never heard of this, so I joined because I wanted to learn new business ideas, and also I wanted a micro-loan.
"The first time when I saw them give all the money that we had collectively saved to another group member, it scared me. I feared that she wouldn't return to the group, but after she returned and re-paid the loan, my mind began to change.
"When it was my turn to receive a loan ($15), I was happy. I bought a crate of oil, and I felt very relieved. My business made a lot of profit.
"Something that I really like [about participating in a savings group] is that we learn each week something good for our family and business. And I learned to pray and to pray for my spouse, and he has started to heal more and more.
"Now, my husband walks better, he moves his right arm a little more, he is friendly, and he helps me cook and sell the food. Last week, we went to our plot of land in the field, and he told me that he was going to stay a week longer to continue working a little more.
"Recently, he also received some glasses that he really needed. He felt very happy because no one had ever given him something so valuable. I continue to pray for my husband and my family, and I give thanks for the help we've received in our businesses."
This article first appeared in April 2014 on the Month of Microfinance website.
In this photo, Hidaya is preparing the legumes that she uses for her pastry business in Tanzania. She sells her pasties at a nearby school and to others in her community. Before joining a savings and loan group with Five Talents' partner, the Mama Bahati Foundation, Hidaya could not afford to buy the legumes in bulk. Now, with the help of a loan, she is able to buy her ingredients in bulk and, thus, save money and increase her profit margin.