Las Rosas Saving for the future

“Blue is for the sky, yellow is the sun, white is the stars, red is for blood, and black represents the unknown.” Explained María Magdalena Hernández López as she prepares yarn for her loom before weaving. María lives in the small community of Toj Chulup in the district of Quetzaltenango located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. The community faces many challenges: a water shortage, inadequate health and education services, and a lack of economic opportunities. The community suffers from high rates of irregular migration, on average one person per household has migrated to the United States. Leaving primarily women, like María, to raise a family with the challenges created by the difficult living conditions in Toj Chulup.

Facing this reality, a group of motivated women banded together to form a weaving cooperative, named Las Rosas, as a way to provide for their families and have dignified work. Las Rosas already had the skills needed to produce traditional fabrics for sale on a commercial level, but they were lacking the financial and organizational skills needed to make it successful. To address this, USAID’s Communities Leading Development Project worked with Las Rosas to build their fiscal literacy, self esteem, and self confidence through the Savings and Internal Lending Communities Strategy (SILC).

“You are a valiant woman.” -María Magdalena Hernández López

When María’s husband abandoned her to migrate to the United States she suffered emotionally as well as economically, struggling to make ends meet. Along with these difficulties, María had to overcome the traditional roles that women and men play in the community. Foremost, that the husband is in charge of the finances. This made Maria feel that she had no rights as a woman and this depressed her deeply. But María is a driven entrepreneur at heart and took full advantage of the trainings provided by USAID. María along with the rest of Las Rosas learned how to track expenses, budget, and how to save over time and borrow when an opportunity to invest arises.

“I have a right to work, to succeed, and to be economically independent, it is for this reason that I fight. These are my designs, I make them, and I work in partnership with Las Rosas, this is my story.” -María Magdalena Hernández López

Through the SILC methodology each member of Las Rosas pays small dues which are then pooled into a communal fund. As this fund grows, members can take a fixed rate loans from it to invest in things like education, housing, or their businesses. Also, this fund can act as a security blanket during an emergency, like an illness or a death in the family when members can take out a no interest loan. As these loans are paid back, the interest is reinvested into the group and each member receives a dividend for being part of the association.

For Las Rosas, this has created a savings of over $1,600 in less than a year. The weekly meetings have bonded these women, created a community on which they can rely, and the economic independence has built their self confidence. María is proud of her work and her independence and supports other women who are suffering in the same way she did. For example, when she receives a large order she hires other members of Las Rosas to help her complete the work. María has gone from doubting her own rights as a woman to creating jobs for women in her community.

“I am talented and I like this work because through it I have become independent.” -María Magdalena Hernández López

USAID’s SILC strategy is working in Toj Chulup by creating economic opportunities and building the self confidence of community members. This builds the foundation for a stronger, resilient community which is a place that people will want to invest in and live in, deterring irregular migration.

The Communities Leading Development Project contributes to USAID Guatemala’s development objectives of greater security and justice for citizens, improving levels of economic growth, social development, and stemming irregular migration by improving the quality of life in 200 communities in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, like Toj Chulup. USAID is working with some of the country’s most marginalized populations to strengthen local organizations, develop robust community development plans, and implement projects that respond to needs prioritized by the communities themselves. Las Rosas have plans to expand their sales more broadly on the national level as well as internationally. They invested their own resources to achieve a common goal and as a result have created economic opportunities, increased rootedness, and are making their community more self reliant.


Benjamin Ilka