She is awake before the rooster’s crow. She works long hours taking care of her family’s needs, and she spends time helping her neighbors in every way she can. Often, she then works on her business into the late hours of the night—whether that business is baking chocolate, weaving rugs, or creating pottery.
Oct. 15 marks International Day of Rural Women, a day that acknowledges and appreciates the global contributions of women and girls living in rural areas. The United Nations explains that even though the global poverty rate is declining, women and their families often face extreme poverty at disproportionate rates. Rural women play a key role in shaping and elevating their homes and communities.
During the summer of 2019, nine students from Trockman Microfinance Initiative at Indiana University traveled to rural parts of Oaxaca, Mexico for an experiential learning opportunity. The student organization partnered with Fundacion de En Via, an education-centered nonprofit. En Via empowers women by giving zero-interest loans to develop their businesses. They pair this investment with financial literacy courses, branding workshops, and optional English seminars.
During the visit to Oaxaca, the IU students listened as more than 15 different women shared their stories throughout the week. “It was so inspiring to see how supportive En Via was of the women they worked with, but it was even more inspiring to see how supportive the women were of each other,” said Jason Lin, a junior in the Kelley School of Business. To receive a loan from En Via, three women must form a group, which creates a sense of community. En Via attributes its 100% repayment rate to the accountability found through the group loans. The women succeed together and constantly encourage each other throughout the many phases of operating their own businesses.
“For me, it was amazing to see the work they [women of Oaxaca] were willing to do for their families, whether it was putting in long hours, or learning something completely new. They were doing it so their families could have more down the road,” said Will Bertaud, a Kelley School junior.
The impact women have had throughout rural areas is difficult to measure, but today–and every day– we say “thank you” to rural women everywhere for their incredible contributions towards global development and empowerment.