Cablegate: Bolivian Woman of Courage Nominee


DE RUEHLP #2829 2921837
R 191837Z OCT 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 126072

1. Embassy La Paz enthusiastically nominates Carmen Velasco for the
2008 Secretary's Award for International Women of Courage.

Name: Marcela Maria del Carmen VELASCO de Torrez
Title/Organization: Co-Founder and Executive Director/Pro Mujer
DPOB: 20 March 1950, Bolivia
Citizenship: Bolivian
Address: Calle 6 de Obrajes, Esq. la Costenerita, #100 Piso 3; La
Paz, Bolivia
Phone: (591-2) 278-8654
Passport no.: 338856

2. Carmen Velasco has shown extraordinary leadership and
perseverance as the co-founder of Pro Mujer (Pro-Woman), an NGO
pioneer in microfinance for poor women in Latin America. Her
efforts have improved the lives of hundreds of thousands in Bolivia,
Peru, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Argentina by providing credit,
technical assistance for small businesses, and education and health
services for women and their children.

Velasco began her work in impoverished areas of Bolivia's altiplano
with small groups of women who were beneficiaries of donated food
programs. These mostly-indigenous women were looking for solutions
to their marginalization and socio-economic exclusion. Pro Mujer
was formed with a vision to help women meet their full potential and
give them the means to provide for themselves and their families,
eliminating their dependence on assistance programs.

Pro Mujer was created when communal microfinance banks were still
unproven and many specialists doubted their sustainability. It was
also different from other microfinance institutions because it
served the economic needs of Bolivia's poorest women and their
families. Over the past 17 years, Velasco's NGO has steadily
expanded its activities throughout Bolivia and beyond to Peru,
Mexico, Nicaragua, and Argentina. Currently, Pro Mujer
International provides training and credit to over 159,000 women in
Latin America. Velasco personally designs training programs in
health, family planning, business development, and empowerment for
Pro Mujer's clients and their children. With her founding partner,
she developed Pro Mujer's "communal association" methodology, which
allows the NGO to offer credit to first-time borrowers because of a
peer-group guarantee. Women form groups with people they know, and
if one member is not able to repay her loan, the rest are
responsible for helping her make that payment. Over the last 17
years, Pro Mujer has disbursed more than $327 million in small loans
and provided health care to hundreds of thousands of women and their
families--with an average loan size of $189 and a 99 percent payback

One of the Embassy's top priorities in Bolivia is to promote
sustainable economic growth, prosperity, and poverty reduction.
Carmen Velasco does this by working directly with some of Bolivia's
(and Latin America's) most marginalized women, helping them not only
to increase their economic opportunities, but to lead their lives
with dignity, self-respect and hope.

3. Ms. Velasco has been notified of this nomination and is very
honored by it. If chosen as the WHA "Woman of Courage" she would be
willing to accept the award publicly and able to travel to
Washington in March.

© Scoop Media

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