Since 2007, Argentina has had a woman in command of the highest office in the country. That does not, however, automatically eliminate any and all problems that women further down the socioeconomic ladder face every day. The workers at non-governmental organisation Mujeres 2000 attempt to help women face these difficulties one day at a time. Founded in 2000 (hence the name), the organisation provides microfinancing services to women looking to get a steady foothold in the entrepreneurial world.
“What we provide, what we look for is humanitarian promotion and community development, mainly for young professionals or university students,” says Milagros Gismondi, president of Mujeres 2000 since 2011. “Our mission is to promote community development and various cases. We look for cultural and economic progression.”
Mujeres 2000 began as a microcredit program in 2000 and seven years later became its own foundation. It is run primarily by volunteers and it gets its funds from private donations and subsidies from businesses. In addition to providing funds to hopeful entrepreneurs, the foundations assists students in their academic endeavors through scholarships.
The foundation also assists women who have to work from home because of parental duties. The work of Mujeres 2000 is based in the neighborhoods of Los Troncos del Talar, Virreyes, San Lorenzo, San Pablo and Bancalari.
The grants given by Mujeres 2000 are not always of extravagant value, but Gismondi has been able to see differences made by the NGO’s work, even with such small amounts.
“Obviously, it’s a job that progresses in a very step-by-step way,” she explains. “The changes aren’t obvious from one day to the next, but there are some specific cases that I’ve seen from the years 2000, 2001, 2002 where someone received a very low credit of $200 or $300 to start their first venture, a pretty small amount, but they did it and today they have four clothing stores.”
The changes in the community driven by the recipients of Mujeres 2000’s assistance is also reflected in their children .
“What I’ve also seen is many entrepreneurial women who have given a better quality of life to their children. Even more than in themselves, a transformation can be seen in their children. They serve as an example for their children, and that is where another change takes place,” Gismondi says.
One success story to come out of Mujeres 2000 is that of Liliana Herrera. In 2001, Herrera received a grant of $150 from Mujeres 2000 to boost her clothing business. Eleven years later, Herrera’s business had spread to five clothing booths, creating more jobs and taking care of her five children in the process. She received the “Micro-Entrepreneur Award 2010” and was invited to speak at the Regional Congress of Women Entrepreneurs conference in 2012.
“I never threw in the towel, and I never gave up,” she said at the conference. “You have to have constancy, clear objectives and dedication. Many women leave before the first failure. But I think that the failures empower you so much more.”