Gates Foundation Awards Pro Mujer $3.1 Million To Develop Innovative Microcredit Products

NEW YORK--()--April 26, 2006--

  More General Information on Recent Trends in Microfinance is Available from Pro Mujer for Reporters Considering Larger-Scope Articles  



Pro Mujer, a leading microfinance network in Latin America, and a pioneer at combining financial services with healthcare for the poorest women entrepreneurs, is pleased to announce it has received a $3.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The five-year grant will be used to research new opportunities for serving the very poorest segment of the Latin American microfinance market. Six new loan products are to be developed, tailored for specific types of poor clients currently underserved by traditional microfinance models.

"The significance of this grant goes beyond our own network: we see it as an endorsement of the unique approach to microfinance that we have developed," said Lynne Patterson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pro Mujer. "We integrate financial services with healthcare and business training, and this methodology enables us to deliver both kinds of services to the very poorest segment of the microfinance market through profitable and thus financially sustainable operations."

"Our model also demonstrates that one of the most cost-effective, innovative ways to bring social services to the poor, whether it's healthcare or vocational training, is to use the infrastructure of microfinance operations as a vehicle for social service delivery," Patterson said.

Pro Mujer's average loan size of $164 is among the lowest in the field, but its clients' high repayment rates rank among the best and would be the envy of commercial lenders to small businesses in wealthier countries.

Sylvia Mathews, Chief Operating Officer and an Executive Director at the Gates Foundation, said the foundation "sees Pro Mujer as a leader in providing financial services to very poor communities. We want to support their work in creating innovative new ways to expanding the outreach of those services to underserved populations so that the very poor can improve their own lives."

"We expect this grant will expand the field's understanding of how to deliver value to the poorest clients, and provide experience for others to replicate," Mathews said.

Research will focus on how to meet untapped demand from parts of the poorest segment of the microfinance market that are either not reached at all or not served very effectively by traditional microfinance models.

The six new loan products will be developed and rolled out in pilot projects in several countries, aimed at demonstrating their potential for replication, social impact and profitability. The loans will be designed to meet the differing requirements of distinct segments of the market, reflecting the recognition that, for example, rural farmers' needs differ from those of young adults in urban areas. Research and development will take place in four of the five countries where Pro Mujer operates - Bolivia, Nicaragua, Peru and Mexico. The network also has operations in Argentina.

About Pro Mujer

Pro Mujer is an international microfinance network, offering an integrated package of financial services, business training and healthcare to Latin America's poorest women entrepreneurs. Its integrated approach has proven a profitable model for microfinance operations and a very effective way to help the poor achieve economic security and improved health. Beginning in Bolivia in 1990, Pro Mujer now also operates in Argentina, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. The network's mission is to give Latin America's poorest women the means to build livelihoods for themselves and their families through microfinance, business training and healthcare.

Currently offering credit and savings services to 144,000 clients, of whom some 118,000 are active borrowers, Pro Mujer's average loan size is $164 and its loan portfolio is $20 million. Altogether, Pro Mujer has disbursed $217 million in microloans to 300,000 poor women entrepreneurs over the past fifteen years. Pro Mujer is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.

More information is available on our web site, http://www.promujer.org.

Articles on microfinance:

More general information on recent trends in microfinance is available from Pro Mujer for reporters considering larger-scope articles.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities in health, education, and access to digital information, and to promote strategies and programs that help low-income families in its local region. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates and Melinda Gates. More information about the foundation is available at http://www.gatesfoundation.org.

Media Inquiries

For more about Pro Mujer, the grant from the Gates Foundation or microfinance in general, contact:

Lynne Patterson
Executive Director
Tel: +1 (212) 952-0181 ext. 11
lpatterson@promujer.org

Maria Paula Carvajal
Chief Operating Officer
Tel: +1 (212) 952-0181 ext. 12
mcarvajal@promujer.org

Contacts

Pro Mujer, New York
Lynne Patterson, 212-952-0181 ext. 11
or
Maria Paula Carvajal, 212-952-0181 ext. 12

Contacts

Pro Mujer, New York
Lynne Patterson, 212-952-0181 ext. 11
or
Maria Paula Carvajal, 212-952-0181 ext. 12