Nuestra Comunidad: Program helps Latinas become self-sufficient

Ixenia Botero and Luz Berdugo are one step closer to turning their dreams of entrepreneurship into a reality. For Botero, this will come in the form of a support center for Latino children with autism, while Berdugo hopes to open a money transfer company.

Both women belong to the Latinas Economic Empowerment Program, an initiative of the Latin American Association, which offers training and guidance to Hispanic women who wish to become business owners.

The program was created with the dual goal of helping women to become self-sufficient, as well as to lead families out of poverty, according to its director, María Soledad Azuri.

“We want Latina women to know that they can do this, that they can support their families and they have the ability to learn something new and be successful,” explained Azuri.

For Botero and her peers, that is exactly what they have taken away from the experience thus far.

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“This program has helped us to believe in ourselves and realize that, despite the limitations you think you have sometimes, you can do it, if you have the right resources,” said Botero, a psychologist and native of Colombia.

The initiative began eight weeks ago, with an enrollment of 60 women who meet on a weekly basis to learn the ins and outs of opening and operating a successful business. At the end of the course, each participant will create a detailed business plan, with their instructors’ assistance.

Tutoring services, housecleaning, beauty salons, sewing, jewelry, restaurants, accounting and notary services are just a few of the types of companies the women are working to open.

Circle of influence

In addition to receiving valuable lessons about the world of proprietorship, the women have also formed lasting bonds in a trusting and friendly environment. Indeed, one of the goals of the program is for its participants to one day pay it forward and help other women who possess the same dream.

Juan Camilo Peralta, one of the group’s instructors, believes the women are walking away from the workshops with much more than just business smarts.

“A tribe of women has formed, united with the same purpose: to help one another. What I want this to accomplish is that they create a circle of influence,” said Peralta.

One of the biggest challenges that Azuri and Peralta have faced since the program’s inception is helping the women to truly believe that their ideas and aspirations can translate into viable businesses, but the group’s leaders hope to change that mentality.

“Our community of women lacks self-esteem and confidence, but the abilities are there,” assured Azuri. “Latina women are fighters, they are strong and invincible.”

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