New York, New York
Lynne Patterson is the embodiment of quiet passion. She did not set out to empower some one million women in Latin Americas poorest countries by giving them micro-loans to start businesses. In fact, when she went to Bolivia to teach in 1989, her focus was young children. But she learned that, To reach the children, we had to reach their mothers, who had such low self-esteem from being poor and living in a society where men are given preference.
Soon she and fellow teacher Carmen Velasco, eventually Lynns partner in founding Pro Mujer (For Women), were holding meetings in which impoverished young mothers reflected on ways to improve their lives. The consensus: We need to increase our familys income. Could you help us start small businesses?
Neither teacher had business experience, but their response was immediate: Absolutely. When we were starting, says Lynne, I would never have dreamed in a million years that we would now be running this program in five countries with the success that we have had.
Today, Pro Mujer employs 1,450 people serving 208,000 clients, and has disbursed a billion dollars in loans. The organizations mottoGiving Women Creditreflects the fact that the organization is much more than a bank. Services include business training, preventive health education, quality low-cost health care, and peer-group support. The rate of loan repayment is an amazing 98 percent.
The repayment for Lynne is much dearer. She will long cherish memories of women like Sandraa young Nicaraguan mother transformed from an abused, illiterate wife to a radiantly confident businesswomanproclaiming with pride: My children will never be like I was.