By Jana Stohler, CDF/ConDev Intern
On week two of my CDF/ConDev-sponsored internship program, while resting in the beautiful weather one evening this week at SHIP El Salvador, I listened to the storm blowing in. As the rain came and the wind picked up, I began to think about the living conditions of the people here in the surrounding community. Many of our neighbors struggle to provide basic elements for their families, such as a roof on their homes. They do the best they can and use whatever they find to cover their homes to keep the rain out, which can be any type of metal material, including car hoods. Despite their struggles, a group of ladies from the neighborhood have a reason to smile!
Today, I worked in SHIP’s women’s center, and I thought about how much this economic development initiative impacts the community. SonRia [Smile], is a program started by SHIP in the summer of 2013 to empower single mothers in the community. Presently, just over 100 women are enrolled in this program, and it helps them provide for their families. To get started, the women complete an application form, and Raquel, the program’s manager, conducts an interview process to determine their need. After they’ve been signed up for the program and had their picture taken for a photo ID, the women are given 10 free t-shirts to sell in the community to get them started and put a little money in their pockets. Three weeks later, they can return and receive another 10 shirts to help their business progress. They can then come back to the women’s center to purchase additional items at a minimal price to sell for a profit. The items the women sell are either new or gently used clothing that was donated to SHIP in the U.S. and shipped to their facility in El Salvador for this purpose. The women’s center is open Wednesdays and Fridays for the women to shop for merchandise. Raquel has the women scheduled to come in at rotating times to ensure that everyone has access to some of the newer and nicer products. The women’s center provides jobs and allows these women to provide for their families. Of course, some of the women are more motivated to do better with their little business than others. At this time, approximately 60% of these women return to SonRia to continue purchasing merchandise to sell, impacting around 60 women and their families.
In working with SonRia on Wednesdays and Fridays, I’m amazed at how much the women from the community are impacted by this program. Not only is SHIP able to empower these women to provide for their families, but they are also taking the skills the women already have and enhancing them. In essence, the women know what the people of El Salvador want and need. Because of that knowledge, they buy expressly for their target audience when they come to the women’s center to shop. These women are learning many valuable skills, such as how businesses operate and how to purchase the items their customers want to buy. It’s empowering!
I am looking forward to conducting a case study on this entrepreneurship program for women as part of my CDF/ConDev internship program.