FinEquity Blog

Women Entrepreneurs: Creating Economic Opportunities in their Communities

Group photo of women who are part of Mujeres Transformadoras

In Paraguay, 50% of the workforce is made up of women, with 13% residing in the departments of Caaguazú, Guairá and Caazapá - which have the highest poverty rates in the country (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, 2023). Articulating actions among civil society, public and private sector organizations, to provide tools and resources which enable women to become agents of change in their communities is key when trying to reduce these gaps.

Mujeres Transformadoras: Generando soluciones económicas en la comunidad (Women Entrepreneurs: Creating Economic Opportunities in their Communities) is an initiative of Fundación Capital, with technical and financial support from USAID. This initiative aims to increase women's participation in decision-making in their communities, improve their business management and life skills, and increase their access to community and financial resources, such as credit, association and savings tools, as well as training.

Woman selling at a kiosk in Caazapá

When we visited María Norma Tandi in Guasory, a community in the 3 de Mayo district in the department of Caazapá, she had opened a kiosk in the front of her home, a little over a month ago. Selling basic family groceries and cleaning supplies allows her to support her family, which now consists of three school-age children.

Norma is 44 years old, she has been part of Mujeres Transformadoras for about six months, and a few weeks before opening her business she lost her eldest son, who was barely 21 years old. Shaken, she told us that Ricardo had always wanted his mother to own her own business and had encouraged her to renovate that part of the house to make it happen.

She joined the initiative thanks to a Savings and Investment Group (SIG) which brings together entrepreneurs and neighbors from Guasory and other nearby areas. According to Norma, the group became her greatest support to overcome her sadness and get back on her feet after her son’s death.

“Thanks to my colleagues from the Savings Group, who encouraged, supported me and stood by me at all times, I was able to get back on my feet, return to work and was brave enough to set up my kiosk, in honor of my son,” she told us, visibly moved. “They said, if you don't return, Norma, we're not going to carry on, so get up and come, let's meet.”

Transformation of the Community is the Driving Force of Mujeres Transformadoras

Norma's innate passion for cooking led her to work in dining and food services from an early age. Sopa Paraguaya, a rich savory cake, is her distinct hallmark in 3 de Mayo. As a result, it is always displayed on the counter of her brand new kiosk, so passing customers can taste it before the smiling cook.

The predominantly rural 3 de Mayo district is located deep in the south of Caazapá - historically a department with the highest rate of extreme poverty in Paraguay.  Norma was born in 3 de Mayo, and has found the true meaning of community in her savings group which embraces about 20 women. This is a support network that encourages her to return, to persist, to work hard in the face of adversity. 

Within the framework of Mujeres Transformadoras, Norma also took part in training on community diagnostics, life plans and business plans. These have awakened a different perspective and helped her discover that her role as a leader - fully recognized by her community - not only influential, but also brings with it extra responsibility. “What I say is done, they listen to me, that's why I must continue my training so I can help my group and my community in the best way. For me, that is what being a transformative woman means,” she commented in pure Guaraní language as the delicious aroma of Sopa Paraguaya arose, stirring appetites in each and every eager diner around.

A Comprehensive Perspective

By understanding poverty beyond a lack of income or resources, it is possible to fully comprehend what this situation entails for women in vulnerable conditions in Paraguay. They mainly work in agriculture, craft production, retail trade and have always had a central role in the socioeconomic dynamics of their communities. However, they have historically lagged behind in their access to financial resources and tools such as credit, technical assistance and technology. Moreover, and not a minor fact, these women must combine daily chores, the need for learning, training and association with their childcare and homemaking roles.

Mujeres Transformadoras focuses on bringing these tools and resources to women in the departments of Guairá, Caazapá and Caaguazú, through capacity-building strategies, developing associative spaces and introducing technology as an aid to the broad range of microenterprises.

Difficulties arise when it's time to conduct business - in the household- and the women do not have a place to leave their children.

A woman pastry chef from Juan Eulogio Estigarribia

“They invite you to workshops or meetings and you automatically say: I won’t be able to go, who will stay with my child? But then they explain that they provide childcare spaces and this is reassuring because you know that you will be able to attend calmly and your daughter or son will be fine," said Dielcica Viera, a pastry chef and homemaker from the city of Juan Eulogio Estigarribia, in the department of Caaguazú.

Part of comprehensively addressing poverty lies in understanding that the triple role women perform (caring for children, taking care of their household chores and as entrepreneurs) often translates into gaps in their access to community activities, training and, eventually the possibility of increasing their income.

In that sense, Mujeres Transformadoras has found that enabling these childcare spaces for participants is a core and unavoidable variable. These become true community support systems, in which participants can safely entrust the care of their children while they acquire useful new skills to advance on their road to poverty reduction and the development of their communities.

The proposal is to establish their relevance in order to achieve self-management by participants themselves. The project team on the other hand, provides the women with advice, educational materials, rotating schedule proposals and childcare activity guides.

Women Who Transform Their Economic Ecosystem

The year 2024 is projected to be one of growth and empowerment for Mujeres Transformadoras. Taking into account the multiple dimensions of the work involved in eradicating poverty and improving access to livelihoods is the greatest challenge.

The collective efforts of Fundación Capital, throughout all its initiatives, are presented as driving forces that trigger systemic transformations which take root in the communities in which it works; so that change becomes synonymous with projection and growth.

Positioning working women, entrepreneurs and leaders as catalysts of change and key actors in their communities’ development process, lays the foundations for total transformation in our societies; where equal opportunities, access to tools and active participation in decision-making results not only in increased individual and family income, but also in a better and fairer quality of life for all people.


This blog was originally published in Spanish on FinEquity ALC website.

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