The Social Progress Cooperative in Cali, Colombia - 1
06 / 1994
The Social Progress Cooperative (popularly known as Social Progress)in Cali, Colombia is a women’s organisation concentrating on helping women in Cali to improve their social status through the availability of credit.
The target group of Social Progress is strictly women. The women must be between the ages of 18 and 60 and must follow a course conducted by Social Progress on financial administration.
The movement does consider disbursing loans to men but this is done on their own terms and conditions which means that no loan is given to a man directly. If a man seeks to obtain a loan from Social Progress, he is not accomadated and his wife is requested instead to join the project and obtain loans to meet the family needs.
Social Progress has an interesting history in that it is a movement created by its own beneficiaries and built up by the people in its target area. The movement began with 26 women who wanted to break away from their domestic routines and meet other women in order to add some change their lives.
Social Progress was formed under the leadership of a rural woman who gathered with other women while tending to their children at a children’s nutrition centre and mobilised the women to form a group by which they could meet each other and find ways to earn some income for themselves in order to gain their independence.
The women so gathered formed their own cooperative, bought a cardboard box which served as their first safe to collect and keep secure their weekly savings and later acquired a legal constitution, 4 years later.
As Social Progress was born from among its beneficiaries and headed by one of them, the identicication of a specific target area or the selecting of a specific population as the target group was not necessary.
After decades (two and a half)in operation, Social Progress still works according to its first plans of operation but now outlines a schedule by which members are trained before being eligible for loans. Once a potential loanee is enroled into the project, she must compulsorily follow a course on income generating activity conducted by Social Prtogress. When the member has followed this and gained a substantial knowledge on the activities she is required to engage herself in, she is considered for a loan.
Social Progress is a small scale credit scheme organised by its own target group. The fact that it has been in effective operation for over 26 years forces one to conclude that it is a remarkably good and suitable credit scheme for the area in which it is in operation. However this scheme is operated and headed by one woman who originally mobilised other women into forming the credit cooperative. The question that arises here is not whether the scheme is suitable or whether it has achieved its aim of making the women independent - it has; the question is what happens when this leader is no longer able to or interested in the scheme.
THIS ARTICLE IN ONE OF A COLLECTION PUBLISHED IN THE BOOK ’BANKING THE UNBANKABLE - BRINGING CREDIT TO THE POOR’.
MARQUEZ GONZALEZ, Eduardo, PANOS INSTITUTE, THE PANOS INSTITUTE, 1989
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