Self-Help Assists Women to Help Their Children

By Lucia Vega Galeano, Program Operations Manager, Self-Help Nicaragua

When Aracelly Cruz, Self-Help International Nicaragua’s Women’s’ Empowerment Program officer, was growing up in a rural community in southern Nicaragua, her mother, Magdalena, received a micro-credit loan from Self-Help’s Women’s Empowerment Program to build an improved oven that was more efficient and less polluting than the open wood-fired oven she was using to bake bread for stores in the area. 

After expanding her bread-baking business, Magdalena received a second loan to buy a corn mill. In addition to allowing her to grind her own corn, other women paid Magdalena to grind their corn with the mill, which provided another income stream for the family.

The loans helped Aracelly’s mother increase her income and provide for her children’s education. Now 26 years old, Aracelly has used her education to become Self-Help Nicaragua’s Women’s Empowerment Program officer, assisting other women like her mother so they can improve their families’ lives.

Now that Magdalena has established her business, she and her husband, Rafael Cruz, are building a store next to her house in San Jose, a rural community served by Self-Help Nicaragua in the southern part of the country. Although Magdalena has graduated from Self-Help’s micro-credit program, Aracelly provides business training and financial lessons so women like her mother can improve the lives of another generation of children in rural communities, too.

Aracelly’s mother is one of hundreds of women in Nicaragua who have benefited from small loans of $50 to $500 from Self-Help’s micro-credit program to finance their small businesses. The loans have allowed women entrepreneurs like Magdalena to expand their businesses and improve the lives of their children. 

The business training that the women receive from Aracelly and Self-Help, along with their loans, help them expand their knowledge of the financial aspects of their businesses, including accounting principles and profit-and-loss statements so they can learn how to successfully operate their businesses. Women who participate in Self-Help’s Women’s Empowerment Program also testify that it boosts their self-confidence and feelings of financial independence as it increases their livelihoods.

With their increased income, Aracelly’s parents were able to buy another farm nearer the school that their children attended. After finishing high school at age 17, Aracelly went on to study computer science on weekends in San Carlos, which is 24 kilometers (15 miles) from her farm home, while working during the week to help support her family.

Eventually, Aracelly was able to attend the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in Managua, where she graduated with a teachers’ degree. She returned home after graduation and taught for three and a half years before becoming Self-Help’s women’s empowerment officer last year.

Aracelly is an example of how Self-Help can help people realize their dreams by helping themselves.

Magdalena with improved oven