Mujeres A.V.E in Mexico
Our Mujeres A.V.E programme in Mexico took place from 2019-2021.
The southern state of Oaxaca is one of the poorest and most marginalised in Mexico, with two thirds of the population living in poverty, and just 45% having completed high school education. In the municipality of Villa de Zaachila, where the Mujeres AVE project is based, the community is particularly marginalised. It is home to one of the largest landfills in the state, receiving close to 1,000 tons of waste a day which has enormous environmental, social and economic impacts on the immediate surrounding area, and the 17,000 people who live, work and study here. 82 per cent of homes in this area lack basic services like running water, sewage and electricity.
In early 2019, the Trafigura Foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Oaxaca-based Solidaridad Internacional Kanda A.C. (SiKanda) partnered to support the women entrepreneurs of Villa de Zaachila through the Mujeres A.V.E. project. Mujeres A.V.E. supports local women to better manage their micro-businesses, which has a fantastic impact on their families and the wider area as they develop enterprises to service their local community. The tailored support and training provided was designed to build participants’ capability and confidence, as informed by an in-depth needs assessment conducted with the women of Villa de Zaachila in 2018.
In March 2020, in response to COVID-19’s impacts and lockdown measures that would affect Mujeres A.V.E., we quickly pivoted and adapted the project so we could continue to provide support remotely and offer extra guidance, tools and resources. This supported participants to navigate the impact of the pandemic on their lives and businesses, and to remain resilient throughout.
One year on from the start of the pandemic, many of the women entrepreneurs had increased their digital literacy and started selling through online marketplaces. Additionally, WhatsApp groups built even stronger relationships amongst participants, who relied greatly on their peers for emotional support throughout the most difficult periods of the pandemic. Some of the women entrepreneurs also started savings groups and collectives with women they met through the project.
Globally, women entrepreneurs remain disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and this is set to continue, particularly in low and middle income countries. It is therefore critical for women entrepreneurs in Villa de Zaachila to access the skills, confidence and networks they need to remain resilient now and in the future. In order to best provide this, in Mujeres A.V.E. moved to a new partnership structure so that the SiKanda team, who are in daily contact with participants, could have the flexibility to respond quickly to their changing needs. To enable SiKanda to do this, they now assume responsibility for all management of the project while the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women transitions to an advisory position, continuing to support SiKanda in honing its women’s entrepreneurship expertise and offering technical expertise in monitoring, evaluation and learning. The Trafigura Foundation continues to provide funding as well as non-monetary support. This updated structure means we can continue to offer support that is most relevant for women entrepreneurs in Villa de Zaachila and the Mujeres A.V.E project is able to respond to their needs as best as possible.
In 2021, Mujeres A.V.E. was in its final year of implementation. We were confident these changes would enable us to support women entrepreneurs’ resilience throughout this difficult period.