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A New Assignment: Placing Human Rights and Gender Equality in the Surveyors’ Manual

ACCION Ambassador dinner with Martin Burt, Executive Director of Fundación Paraguay. Ambassadors: Mary Helen Pombo left, Leah Vinton center and Katie Webster right

During a charming dinner with the founder of Fundación Paraguaya, I was pleasantly surprised by Martin Burt’s receptiveness to the importance of gender relations in the context of poverty and in the two main areas of work at Fundación Paraguaya: Microfinance and Self-Sufficient Agricultural Schools. Without any of my probing, Martin elaborated on the growing need to address domestic violence within the family unit, especially as female microborrowers gain economic power and mobility outside of the home: a topic I have been immensely curious about. It was certainly refreshing to hear an executive director of a Microfinance institution (MFI) explicitly say, “Gender is the hard stuff!”

The very next morning, Martin Burt contacted Tania Almada, a lawyer at the human resources department to put me on a new project to have me integrate or add (still not clear, though obviously the difference between these two activities is not inconsequential) human rights and gender equality into the surveyor’s manual. The assignment requires an interview with the Paraguayan government ‘s minister of women’s issues. I began my due diligence by researching MFIs in Latin America and the Caribbean that claim to incorporate similar initiatives[i].

Women’s Empowerment Initiatives

In the course of my research, I have come to wonder why Fundación Paraguaya has not implemented a women’s empowerment initiative to microfinance, as have some MFIs with larger visions for microfinance. Continue reading