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How Kiva loans helped Rosa invest in her life and land—and become a leader for women in her community

Rosa shows her rice field and explains how the loan helped her harvest the grains

Outside the Ecuadorian agricultural center of Portoviejo, Rosa sweeps her arm out over a field of bright green plants, their tops swelling with rice.

“As you can see, this is my crop,” says Rosa, beaming with pride as she explains how she’s used her most recent Kiva loan. “This investment is for the rice—I buy and I sell.”

Rosa serves as a prime example of how the effect of taking out a small loan, repaying it, then obtaining another can build a person’s financial confidence and ameliorate their circumstances.

As a widow and grandmother that helps care for her daughter’s little ones, Rosa has faced difficulties in stabilizing her income in the agrarian sector of Ecuador, where gender inequality and a dominant patriarchal society remain a significant barrier for women.

Through established Kiva Lending Partner Fundación ESPOIR, Rosa has been able to secure financial capital to support not only her agricultural venture but for home improvements, her children’s and grandchildren’s school tuition, and emergency funding as well.

“These have all really benefited us,” she avows.

“Thanks to this, I am where I am today, and the loans have helped me overcome and improve my situation.”

Related: How microlending makes a positive impact

An example for her community

“I have learned a lot from the many people whom I have met, and I am proud of this.”

In addition to being a great example of how microfinance can help people improve their lives loan by loan, Rosa also serves as an experienced mentor for other women and borrowers in her community, and learns from them as well.

As the president of her loan collective for the past 16 years, Rosa sets a respectful tone for the other members, acknowledging that it is a “significant responsibility” to guide the group. She also provides advice and direction on how to handle the windfall of a loan, curtailing any temptation to fritter away the money on superficial things.

“I like giving them recommendations,” says the seasoned borrower. “For example, when the loan disbursal comes around, I say to them ‘Alright, please, we have to decide how we will invest this money, where and how will we spend it? We’re not going to spend it at the store, at a dance....Please remember, we have a business which we need to invest in.”

Rosa takes her leadership role seriously, requiring rapt attention and active engagement during the educational sessions presented by the local loan officer every 15 days. When someone in the group has issues with payment or personal difficulties, she visits them at home to help resolve them.

Most importantly, she instills a sense of accountability to the group, reminding members to keep in mind that the money is meant to be stewarded by all of them.

“As President, I ensure that our group pays, that we’re all responsible.”

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Uplifting women entrepreneurs

Community lending provides opportunity for women like Rosa in Ecuador.

Rosa and her group receive their loans via Kiva Field Partner Fundación ESPOIR Ecuador, a microfinance institution based in the capital of Quito with additional branches in the cities of Cuenca and Portoviejo.

Founded in 1992 to serve Ecuadorian women living on the economic and social margins, ESPOIR doesn’t require business experience or collateral to approve a loan, only a personal commitment from its borrowers. Known as “the Foundation” among its clients, the organization provides a supportive base to establish financial stability and a better life.

In addition to microloan products for business ventures, home improvement, education and emergencies, the non-profit also offers extensive wraparound services to its clients that encourage their success. Some of these include:

  • Business training
  • Financial literacy classes
  • Nutritional and reproductive education

At the Cuenca office, clients can also seek medical care for themselves and their families at a healthcare clinic presided over by two doctors, and group leaders like Rosa help make the connections.

“I have a lot of gratitude for the Foundation,” says Rosa.

“I have learned a lot from the many people whom I have met, and I am proud of this.”

Related: How Kiva & Lending Partners protect borrowers

Continuing the cycle

“I am already thinking about how I will put the loan to use—I know I’ll invest it in my land.”

Rosa now has a plot of land to plant rice and is able to help care for daughter and her family, thanks to her becoming involved with the Foundation 25 years ago.

“When I started with this institution, I had a tiny house,” she recalls. “But then, little by little, with the loans for home improvements, I was able to improve and expand my home.”

Like her home, little by little she has also been able to grow her business and build an essential role in her community with each loan. Not content to let opportunities languish, Rosa plans to continue to take out another loan and keep growing.

 “We’re awaiting the end of this loan cycle, and then I will get another one. I am already thinking about how I will put the loan to use—I know I’ll invest it in my land,” she affirms, pointing out to the green field heavy with rice.

“I know I am going to put it to good use, not spend it on random things. I know I’ll use the loan to continue investing in this, because this will result in profits which I will be able to use to repay.”

Though her tribulations have been many, Rosa finds solace in her faith, her experiences, and the close-knit group of women she leads.

“I continue and persist, thanks to God,” says Rosa. “And I encourage the other women in my group to be the same way, to persist, to not give up.”

Kiva loans help women like Rosa create stability for themselves and their families. Powered by lenders like you, it’s a proven, positive cycle that changes lives—one loan at a time.

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About the author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos is Kiva's Senior Storyteller and an award-winning writer based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Covering social justice, cultural equity, sustainable growth, financial literacy, and always celebrating others' success, she is thrilled to help share Kiva's mission—and the stories of the people it connects.