El Salvador: Women Entrepreneurs Reaching Their Goals
Thanks to the Gender Innovation Fund, a group of women led by Blanca Segovia had an opportunity to start their own microbusiness, support the school meals programme at local schools and also improve the nutrition of their own families.
Blanca is a 53 year old woman from San Miguel (a province in the eastern region of El Salvador some 138 kilometers from the capital city of San Salvador), who as a result of the armed conflict in the 80´s relocate to another part of the country and re start her life.
“Rice and vegetable salad is what I like the most:” Isaí Martínez, 7 years old, 2nd grade.
“The coconut, melon and tamarind are delicious:” Cristian Cuevas, 9 years old, 3rd grade.
“I walk 20 minutes to get to school, but I do not worry, because here I don´t go hungry:” Milagro Sánchez, 9 years old, 3rd grade.
"I am pleased with the excellent work of the microenterprise. Children eat better and are more motivated to come to school. Many have improved their nutritional status:" Magdalena de Valdez, Principal at El Carmen School in La Union.
Life has not been easy for Blanca as a single mother and head of household with 7 children and selling tortillas* as the only means of income. Her daily earning of $4.00 did not suffice to cover the basic costs of food, health and shelter.
However, Blanca's and her children's lives took a turn in 2010, as she heard the news that the public school in the village of El Carmen needed to contract a group of women to supply ready-to-eat meals for the students. The school at El Carmen was taking part in the Ministry of Education´s (MINED) project for the “Provision of Local Food, Education and Health”, which receives technical support from WFP and the National Centre for Micro and Small Businesses (CONAMYPE).
One of the objectives of this project is to stimulate the local economy through the set-up of women led small businesses able to compete in the country´s productive sector. Other objectives are related to educating and sensitizing these women on a new school meal modality in which they participate and learn about good practices in food, nutrition, health and hygiene
Most of the women organized in these small businesses are heads of households, with very scarce resources and with a low or non-existent educational level. In the framework of the project, the women are trained in business administration and financial management, quality control procedures, and to develop cost-effective and healthy menus. With these new knowledge and skills, the women are able to participate and compete in the local economies and thus improve their living conditions, including their food security. In addition, the businesses established by these women undergo a certification process with the Ministry of Health to verify that they are in compliance with the required health standards.
WFP supports positive gender relations
WFP´s Gender Fund promotes and supports innovative projects developed in partnership and that incorporate a strong gender focus. These initiatives are implemented in the framework of national policies and include the participation of multiple sectors: governments, NGO and communities.
The fund supports programs aimed at generating positive gender relations, as well as empowering women toward achieving food security for themselves and their families.
In the case of Blanca, in addition to technical support WFP has funded infrastructure improvements as well as the purchase of kitchen equipment in order to increase her working capital so that she´s in a position to startup her business.
“We are better trained and our business is well equipped. The funding provided by WFP allowed us to purchase an oven, kitchen, grill, weights, and containers that have created a strong platform for our business. As we obtain profits, we will be in a position to reinvest toward further improvements” remarked Blanca.
Blanca took up the challenge and decided to organize a group of 5 mothers from the school and then together proceeded to acquire a $4,000 loan as seed capital to startup “Génesis Cafeteria”, which serves ready-to-eat meals to 472 students at the local school.
“The business has helped us to grow economically. We have established a network of suppliers and have learned adequate eating habits for our families, while simultaneously contributing to a better nutrition for the children at school”, concluded Blanca.
Blanca and her business partners have learned to organize themselves in order to work as a team affording them the opportunity to compete in the local market in the Eastern province of La Union.
An experience brought home
The knowledge and skills transferred by WFP have not remained at school. The women that make up these small businesses have also improved eating habits at home, where they also have put in practice adequate hygiene habits allowing them to improve the health of their children as well.
Hand washing techniques, the use of head nets to cook, seasoning with aromatic herbs instead of using chemical products, water saving and purification techniques, disinfecting of vegetables and fruits are some of the skills and knowledge they are applying at home.
“Just as we advise the kids at school to eat better, our own children have also benefited from these acquired skills and knowledge. We prepare recipes form the menu with a greater variety of foods so that our children eat better and more naturally”, pointed out Blanca.