For these Costa Rican leaders, supporting other women is personal

“She was always fighting for women.” So said Elsa of her late mother, Lilliam. Elsa’s mom was a fierce advocate for women in their community of Upala, an agricultural zone in the northern region of Costa Rica. Elsa is now following in her mother’s footsteps, leading a local credit union that lends to, and is run by, only women. It is called Efecu. Efecu is one of the local organizations that finds borrowers to connect with Kiva and distributes Kiva loans.

Elsa, her mother, and other leaders of Efecu saw supporting women as absolutely critical. “We wanted to empower women, who are often submissive to their husbands. We wanted to make sure everyone knew their rights.” To do this, they worked to organize women in many neighboring communities, ultimately consolidating their efforts into Efecu about five years ago.

Elsa is pictured here (at right) under a memorial to her mother, and with her coworker Ligia. She works hard to live up to her mom's legacy of fighting for women. The inscription on the memorial reads: "For her love, dedication, effort, and determination on behalf of the women and families of Upala."

Now, Efecu has around 220 members (all women) and makes thousands of dollars in loans each year, many of them with the support of Kiva funders. These borrowers include Marcelina and Maria Luisa, both pictured here.

Marcelina was able to grow her chicken business through a Kiva loan from Efecu.

It was very inspiring to meet these women, hear their stories, and have a moment to bear witness to a daughter honoring her mother’s legacy.

To make loans to local women through Costa Rican and Panamanian credit unions like Efecu, click here!

Maria Luisa also benefited from a Kiva loan from Efecu. She used hers to purchase cattle.

About the author

Michaela Ross

Michaela is a proud native Clevelander and a newly minted San Franciscan. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in History, she spent the past several years working in the social sector, beginning as a field organizer for President Obama’s reelection campaign. She then spent a year working in state and federal government, focusing largely on domestic anti-poverty policy. For the last two years, she has been working as a nonprofit consultant at The Bridgespan Group, helping organizations and foundations have more social impact. She is very excited to work with Kiva this spring, where she is looking forward to working with inspiring people, trying out her Spanish, learning about microfinance, and sampling some delicious Costa Rican and Nicaraguan cuisine. Michaela is a great lover of novels, vegetarian food, and puns.