Against All Odds
If there is anything that Benita, Julia and Norah know it is that life is never easy, especially for women. Though their dreams were modest – to provide for their children – their obstacles were huge. With the help of FINCA loans, however, these three women not only beat the odds but built thriving businesses that supported their families and their communities.
Benita Chikaluma, Malawi
A widowed mother of two girls in Malawi, Benita Chikaluma has faced abysmal odds. After her husband’s death, all she had left to survive on was the small savings she accumulated through the spare change she had collected.
Thinking about how she might stretch those last coins to buy her family some time, Benita bought firewood to sell, hoping the profits would keep her girls fed. Then she discovered FINCA. The loan from FINCA gave a real boost in profitability to her firewood sales, giving Benita the freedom to explore other money-making ideas.
Eventually, Benita took out a second loan to start a new enterprise. She invested it in collecting empty plastic bottles from manufacturers in Malawi’s biggest city, carting enormous bags holding hundreds of bottles and selling the bottles to businesses outside the city. Her businesses have helped to pay for the new home she built for her girls, complete with electricity and running water—amenities that are rare in Malawi, and things she once thought she would only be able to dream of having.
Julia Maria Ixchop Us De Ventura, Guatemala
Every day, Julia Maria Ixchop Us De Ventura bustles making hot snacks in the Boca Del Monte market in Guatemala City. Her corner restaurant, named after her daughter – Katy – occupies three rented spaces in the market and consists of a kitchen, a seating area and a dish cleaning area.
Today, Julia takes pride as a woman business owner and as the lifeline for her family. But eighteen years ago, she was struggling. Back then, her husband had provided for the family through managing a small store. After years of being an alcoholic, however, the profits from his business dwindled and the family became broke. Julia took matters in her own hands and began to sell food on the street to make ends meet. The work was tough and though selling food helped to feed her children, she couldn’t afford their school fees.
With FINCA loans, Julia was able to expand her business and put her kids through school. As her dishes became more popular, she moved her food establishment inside the market. She has been saving her profits to renovate her home. Her husband, who has been twelve years sober, works side by side with her every day to help put their kids through school and support their parents.
Norah Musoke, Uganda
At 58, Norah Musoke has experienced enough tragedy and hardship for several generations of women. Thanks to her extraordinary spirit and determination, though, she has overcome her past.
After Norah’s husband left her to marry another woman, he sold their home in Byeyogere, Uganda and all the land the family had. This left Norah and her six children destitute. At first, Norah used her sewing skills to start a tailoring business but was unable to make enough money to support her family.
Norah discovered FINCA through a friend and started a new business milling maize. Her first loan was the catalyst that ignited her maize mill’s steady success and expanding profitability.
Over the years, Norah has endured tremendous heartache, losing five of her six children to HIV/AIDS. She has opened her home to her orphaned grandchildren and now is responsible for a family of 18. Fortunately, her business has grown as rapidly as her household. Her mill employs over 30 family members and neighbors.