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Honduras: ‘Women need to know these things’

Portrait of Iris Zavala

Iris Zavala owns an artisanal ice cream business. She has been able to improve her fortunes through a training program and other resources. All photos by Pamela Villars Nehring/CARE Honduras

Iris Zavala owns an artisanal ice cream business. She has been able to improve her fortunes through a training program and other resources. All photos by Pamela Villars Nehring/CARE Honduras

On a warm Friday morning on the shore of Lake Yojoa in northern Honduras, more than a hundred people – mostly women – are gathered in celebration.

The occasion? A graduation ceremony of sorts. Here alongside Honduras’ only lake, some 114 women entrepreneurs are commemorating the completion of the “Prosperous Futures” (Futuoros Prósperos) training program. They’ve leveled up their skills and, they hope, have taken a giant step toward better incomes and greater financial independence. In addition, they’ve also just received seed capital – sometimes actual seeds, but in other cases useful items like animal feed and product displays – to invest in their businesses.

Iris Zavala is one of the graduates. “I always had entrepreneurial material, I just didn’t know how to start,” says the soft-spoken 34-year-old, offering an easy smile while proudly holding her recently obtained diploma. “I had a small ice cream business that did not give me good results. I worked a lot, but I didn’t see the benefits.”

Group photo of women displaying graduation certificates
Some of the women from Properous Futures proudly display their graduation certificates. Photo: CARE Honduras

Challenges hit women hardest

In this small, Central American country, recent crises have had disproportionate consequences on family incomes, particularly on those families headed by women. On the heels of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, and following the disruption of COVID-19, accelerating inflation and rising unemployment have added to the country’s challenges – challenges often most deeply felt by single mothers and other women.

In addition, rural women producers face specific barriers that prevent them from forming associations and gaining equal access to credit to start or improve businesses. In response, CARE, together with USAID and Cargill, offers a comprehensive response in the most affected areas, focused specifically on building women leaders. Prosperous Futures aims to build truly inclusive prosperity.

For Iris, a resident of El Achotal, a small village in the rural area of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, joining the program was key to growing her artisanal ice cream business. She joined business administration training courses offered by Propserous Futures through Sula Valley Business Development Center (Centro de Desarrollo Empresarial Valle de Sula), a partner.

“I learned to keep accounts, to make better purchases, to keep inventory and to save to reinvest,” she says. “It was a total change; I started seeing results almost immediately.” Iris turns her gaze to her 15-year-old daughter, who wants to be a dentist, and watches her from afar. She smiles, knowing she is now closer to achieving her dreams.

Portrait of Ana María Padilla
Ana María Padilla owns a clothing business and small grocery store. Photo: CARE Honduras

‘Not less than’

Ana María Padilla has a similar story. “There were courses for businesswomen,” says the 37-year-old Santa Cruz resident who now owns a clothing business and small grocery store, “I wasn’t one at that time, but I liked to imagine myself as a businesswoman, so I went.”

Along with business training, Prosperous Futures focuses on the empowerment of women and equal treatment between genders.

“What I liked most was when they explained to me that women are not less than men,” Ana María says. “I come from a family where we women could only dedicate ourselves to the home while the men went out to work. My mother could neither read nor write.

“I always believed that I needed my husband to do it for me in order to become an entrepreneur.”

When Ana María came to her first marketing training, she knew she was in the right place, “it opened my eyes,” she says, excitement in her voice. “Now, as the owner of my two businesses, my greatest satisfaction is making my mother proud of me.”

Both Ana María and Iris are now successful entrepreneurs who share their knowledge and experiences with friends and neighbors in their communities. As Iris says, again smiling: “I do it because I realized that women need to know these things. Because there is room for all of us to prosper and, above all, it is important to organize ourselves, because that is what makes us stronger.”

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