Most residents in the Lower Amazon have few options for accessing the capital that would help them build viable micro-scale businesses to increase their income levels. Their most common sources of entrepreneurial funds come from their own savings and/or borrowing money from family members. These options are very limited, which undermines the growth of their microenterprise.
Microfinance is recognized as an effective instrument of change, empowering individuals to build small businesses that help them become economically self-sufficient. The Banco da Mulher is a rotating saving fund that was formed in 2007 in the Brazilian Amazon as a way of generating income for members of a regional women's association, AOMT-BAM. The bank collected a small amount from each member to establish the fund, and from this pool of money, members are given the opportunity to request loans for their own entrepreneurial projects. Proposals are reviewed and approved by the rest of the group before any loans are dispersed. Although the fund has not closed, it is no longer disbursing new loans. Between 2007 and 2009, the Banco da Mulher provided over 20 small loans as well as trained and mentored 82 women with entrepreneurship and vocational skills. This resulted in an increase in income for many members, including those who never took out loans. Furthermore, the successes and failures of the fund provide important lessons for the development of similar programs.
CEN's Banco da Mulher Project is an in-depth assessment of the bank with the objectives of (1) providing bank organizers with concrete recommendations and (2) providing CEN and other organizations with a model to draw upon for future projects. CEN will evaluate Banco da Mulher and issue a report: