Over the past year, the world has witnessed the power of women’s voices as never before. They are speaking out against harassment, campaigning for office, creating art and culture, and inventing new technologies. Women’s stories, ambitions, and ingenuity are finally taking center stage.

Empowering women to claim their voice – their power – is at the heart of our work at Pro Mujer. For nearly three decades, we have shown how giving women the tools and services they need can create profound social and economic change for themselves, their households, and their communities across Latin America.

While it has been thrilling to see the world awaken to women’s power, especially at a time when we at Pro Mujer are scaling up and transforming our efforts, the past year has not been without its challenges. Violence, natural disasters, and poverty have pushed the number of displaced people and refugees to a record high; intolerance has gained strength in countries around the world, with troubling implications for women’s rights.

Latin America was not spared. Major earthquakes in Mexico, civil unrest in Nicaragua, economic crisis in Argentina, and deadly volcanic eruptions in Guatemala tested the resilience of our beneficiaries and our team. It has become especially critical for Pro Mujer to step up at the worst of times – to protect and support our clients and staff, assist and strengthen our partners, and – to remain steadfast in our commitment to the women we serve when we are needed most.

This unwavering commitment underscores everything we do. It is the foundation for the trust we have built among our beneficiaries, staff, donors, investors, and partners. 

This trust, in turn, carried us through bad times and good, on our shared journey towards building a Latin America where all women thrive.

Self-growth is a key part of this journey, as we seek to fulfill our mandate:


Our roadmap emphasizes four strategic imperatives:

  • Diversifying our products and services
  • Expanding our footprint
  • Achieving operational excellence
  • Positioning Pro Mujer as a thought leader

This past year has seen notable progress in all four of these areas: New offerings around entrepreneurship and digital literacy, the launch of our work in Guatemala, investment in our technology infrastructure, and an illuminating report on the causes of business failure among women entrepreneurs in Mexico.


A Look at 2018

Pro Mujer continued to deliver its traditional offering of financial, health and education services, the cornerstones of our holistic approach to women’s empowerment. So far this year, we have disbursed over $200 million in small loans, many to unbanked women, and provided financial education and empowerment training to enable them to launch or expand businesses. Our beneficiaries also received half a million health interventions across our five countries of operations, allowing us to deliver basic and preventive care, such as cancer screenings, diabetes testing, and nutritional counseling.




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Diversifying our Products and Services

As we evolve into a one-stop platform, we are expanding our range of services and tools to ensure we can meet women’s needs at every stage of their personal and professional development. In 2018, Pro Mujer identified and partnered with best-in-class service providers in several new areas, expanding our offerings.


Many of our clients are born entrepreneurs, brimming with drive and ingenuity. To better support these women, we began collaborating with leading organizations such as FUNDES, an organization that develops micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, and the award-winning business course of CREA, an organization targeting female entrepreneurs. With our combined expertise, we are delivering targeted and proven financial and management training to help our beneficiaries build the hard and soft skills they need to grow their enterprises.

Growing a business also takes capital. Pro Mujer is committed to bringing a new type of investment to our entrepreneurs as they mature. This year, we launched a partnership with New Ventures Mexico, a leading accelerator for and investor in social and environmental enterprises, with the support of USAID. Through this partnership, we will invest growth capital in social enterprises with a gender focus. We will provide financing for the “missing middle,” enterprises that have outgrown microfinance but are too small for traditional banks.

Gender-based Violence

Latin America is a dangerous place for women. Of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide, 14 hail from Latin America and the Caribbean; in some countries, domestic violence rates are over 50 percent. This is not just a statistic. With our deep roots in underserved communities across the region, we witness all too often the reality of gender-based violence in the lives of our beneficiaries and even our staff, and its devastating long-term and intergenerational effects.

As part of our commitment to women’s health and well-being, we are focused on expanding our services to deliver more comprehensive support for survivors of violence and abuse, whether physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. In 2018, we began formalizing our gender-based violence programming, developing a global strategy centered around prevention, intervention, and advocacy. We kicked off by launching a training program on gender issues for Pro Mujer staff in Mexico in collaboration with the Red Nacional de Refugios, aimed at promoting awareness around gender issues, including gender-based violence. With crucial support from Johnson & Johnson and The Tomberg Family Philanthropies, we plan to scale this program to all of our countries of operation.


Despite the increasing importance of digital literacy for economic participation and daily life, in developing countries women are 25 percent less likely to use digital services than men. To ensure women can enjoy the benefits of digital inclusion – such as access to information, education, and markets – Pro Mujer is working with leading technology firms and non-profits to close the digital gender gap.

In 2018, we joined the EQUALS Global Partnership, a network of corporate, government, and non-profit organizations working to close the digital gender gap and promote gender equality in the technology field. As a member of the EQUALS Digital Skills Coalition, we are working alongside organizations such as UNESCO, UN Women, GSMA, and the International Union of Technology, to encourage more girls to study STEM fields, and for the teaching of digital skills to children more broadly.

In partnership with the language learning company Vision Education, we launched a tailored LearnMatch app that uses a virtual football game to teach English vocabulary. Invited users join a virtual football league, don a virtual Pro Mujer jersey, and compete with other users to learn English. After an initial launch in June with 100 Pro Mujer beneficiaries in Argentina, today more than 19,000 users have played LearnMatch on our app across nine countries in Latin America.

We also built on our existing partnerships with Cisco Networking Academy and Fundación TREE to train our staff and beneficiaries in Bolivia in digital literacy with the goal of training 500 staff and 1,000 clients by the end of 2019.


As one of the largest women’s organizations in Latin America, we must branch out to new countries of operation, and expand our footprint in countries we already serve

We are fresh off a historic milestone for Pro Mujer. In the fourth quarter of 2018, we are officially expanding into Guatemala. This decision was borne of careful research, following a wide-ranging and in-depth country-level comparison on the conditions for women across the region. We looked at data to understand where the need was greatest across multiple categories, such as health, educational level, physical security, financial inclusion, and gender equality. This initial evaluation pointed to the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) as among the worst countries for women in the region.

We identified strong local partners in Guatemala to join us in building new centers or amplifying the offering of existing ones. Working with them, we anticipate delivering much-needed services and resources to women and youth by the beginning of 2019, including leadership training, financial literacy, sexual and reproductive health education, entrepreneurial skills, digital literacy, and workforce development.


As an organization, Pro Mujer must model the agility, efficiency, and responsiveness we strive to teach our entrepreneurs. Key investments in our foundational technology infrastructure will allow us to create and scale client-focused technological solutions.

Organizational growth begins with a strong foundation. With the support of our partner Microsoft, this year saw key investments in both our technology and our human resources operations, which will allow us to integrate technological innovations that will reduce cost, increase our reach, and continuously improve client services. In 2018, we launched a new financial management system and an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which will integrate and streamline our business operations, resulting in more transparency and higher productivity.

This year also saw significant investments in our technology infrastructure to ensure our staff, especially frontline workers such as loan officers and health providers, can work more efficiently.

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In Mexico, our field officers have adopted a mobile tool to manage their portfolio of client loans, which we now plan to scale to the rest of our operations in 2019. The app allows our loan officers and their supervisors to track the status of their clients’ portfolios in real time, allowing for much more efficient staff management. We piloted a similar service for our frontline health workers, who now digitally capture the services we offer, either in office or in the field, eliminating dozens of paper-formats. Our new app “Pro Mujer en Tus Manos” (Pro Mujer in your Hands), gives clients the ability to manage their loans and receive targeted messaging on new benefits and opportunities through their mobile device.

Of course, our most important asset is our people. In 2018, we developed a new operational model of human resources to increase efficiency and effectiveness, which will launch at the beginning of 2019. As part of this plan, we will be upgrading our performance and skills analysis system to help guide staff through career opportunities across the organization. Through such technologies we can better track performance and plot career paths so that our employees can develop and thrive. The range of technological investments we are making includes human resource systems designed to enhance communication, motivation, and recognition of our employees, 85 percent of whom are women, and 15 percent of whom first came to Pro Mujer as beneficiaries.

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As one of the leading organizations for women in Latin America, Pro Mujer is ideally positioned to share decades of knowledge and future-oriented thinking by actively engaging a diverse range of stakeholders and audiences.

In 2018, Pro Mujer had several opportunities to leverage its institutional expertise and reputation to raise the profile of women in Latin America. We co-authored a report with The Failure Institute, a research organization focused on why businesses fail, examining the barriers faced by low-income women entrepreneurs. We studied the experiences of current Pro Mujer beneficiaries in Mexico, who told us the biggest challenges to entrepreneurial success were the burden of childcare, disrupted networks, a lack of financial planning, and difficulty managing credit to their clients. Armed with these insights, Pro Mujer can better tailor programming to help our clients succeed.

Pro Mujer has committed to ramp up the visibility of the Latin America region at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference, the world’s largest international conference on gender equality.

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As a sponsor of the conference, Pro Mujer will use its regional expertise to assemble a broad coalition of organizations, impact investors, social enterprises, activists, and thinkers with an eye towards sharing and identifying solutions that address the needs of women and girls in Latin America.

To that end, we invite all like-minded organizations, supporters, and anyone else invested in the women of Latin America to join us in Vancouver in June 2019 for the conference. We are already looking forward to what we know will be incisive, action-oriented conversations on gender lens investing, women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, gender-based violence, and youth leadership.

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Photo credit: ITU Pictures


In a year marked by political and social unrest, economic instability, and natural disasters, Pro Mujer has redoubled its commitment to supporting our clients and staff, and strengthening our partners on the ground in times of crisis.

As an organization, we were tested and stretched as we responded to a range of extreme or urgent situations. We have learned how to better respond to crises, and came out stronger as a result, armed with the knowledge that quick access to needed funds can make all the difference. With your help, we are creating a Resilience Fund, with designated resources that can rapidly be deployed on the ground for any future emergencies. This is especially important for marginalized populations, who are most vulnerable in times of crisis to the loss of life and livelihood.

At a time of deep divisions and sometimes despair, we must never forget what is possible when people work together.


At Pro Mujer, we are relentlessly eager to listen to the hundreds of thousands of women benefiting from our services; to learn from them, to hear their needs and see the ways in which we can support them in building stronger families and better communities.

Since I arrived at Pro Mujer in 2016, I have traveled more miles than I could count to meet and listen to our beneficiaries across countries, cultures, languages and generations. I met young mothers in Nicaragua who stood up against violent partners in order to protect their children, and shared stories with successful entrepreneurs in Mexico who have transformed the lives of their communities for generations to come. I’ve learned from young women in Argentina who created a movement to fight violence against women, and felt humbled by domestic violence survivors in Bolivia that turned their pain into ways of helping others. Thousands of stories of transformation weave the fabric of Pro Mujer’s own story.

This year, we endured new challenges in Latin America and around the world, but throughout, the fierce resilience of women has inspired and motivated us to persist. Never has it been clearer that the time to act is now – to expand our efforts exponentially – and with your help – to support more women in the countries where we work and beyond. We need to recommit to lasting change, and to move boldly with purpose and resolve.


Gaby Lujano, Peru

As one of eight siblings growing up in Peru’s Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca, Gaby Lugano’s future seemed limited. There was no running water or electricity on her island. Her mother had only studied until the third grade and could read very little. At the same time, Gaby’s mom was ambitious and hard-working, wanting better for Gaby and her siblings. 

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Yet no bank would extend her credit. Like millions of other women in Latin America, the family could have succumbed to the cycle of poverty whose powerful centrifugal force keeps so many from realizing their full potential.

Her mother and aunt became clients of Pro Mujer and started a small business selling traditional handcrafts, a business that allowed Gaby to attend university and study hotel management. When she returned home to Los Uros, she joined Pro Mujer, and with an initial loan of USD$90, she took the family business to a whole new level. Gaby started a bed and breakfast on her island, which today welcomes visitors from around the world. Her goal today is to buy property in the city of Puno, and move there with her family so her daughters can access the best education. This is transformation. This is progress – at once individual, collective and intergenerational. 

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Patricia Yamuro, Argentina

Patricia Yamuro is a gifted seamstress who lost her sewing workshop and her home after her daughter’s illness prevented her from working for a month.

After receiving a small loan from Pro Mujer, she was inspired to create a custom harness for a disabled child who was unable to walk; his parents had been unable to afford

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the carrier they needed. Her invention won the national micro entrepreneurship and innovation competition Propulsar, and Patricia plans to reopen her workshop and create additional products that will improve the lives of children with disabilities. 

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Sandra Pino, Bolivia

“I discovered that women can be fighters, enterprising and optimistic. We are equal to men. I feel liberated!”

In Bolivia, it is estimated that up to 70 percent of all women have faced physical or sexual violence in the course of a lifetime. Sandra Pino is no exception.

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For years, she endured violence at the hands of her partner, but when he stopped providing for her children she found the strength to leave and forge her own path to economic independence. Her mother was a Pro Mujer beneficiary, and one day convinced Sandra to attend a meeting. It would prove the catalyst to a whole new life. With a small loan, Sandra decided to fix her car, an old taxi with a broken engine. Today she owns two taxis, and enjoys her line of work despite biases in her community against women drivers. Rather than retreat, she proudly challenges these stereotypes.

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Gillian Shepherd Mestre, M.D., Chair
Ana Demel, Vice-Chair and Secretary, NYU School of Law
Mark Roy McMahon, Treasurer, Independent Consultant




Zelma F. Acosta-Rubio, Interbank
Jennifer Mary Brooks, Microsoft Philanthropies
Tony Carr, Halloran Philanthropies
Maria Cavalcanti, Pro Mujer President & CEO
Vanessa Dager, Credit Suisse
Patrick Grace, Grace Institute Foundation
Jeffrey MacDonagh, Grandfield & Dodd, LLC
Matthew W. Patsky, Trillium Asset Management
Robert Rosone, Deloitte
Nancy Swanson, Linked Foundation
Christine Switzer, Fidelity Charitable



Lynne Patterson, Pro Mujer Co-Founder
Rosemary Werrett, Observatory Group, LLC
Ruth B. Cowan, The Morris & Ruth B. Cowan Foundation Inc.


Maria Cavalcanti, Pro Mujer President & CEO
Olivia Ha, Wells Fargo Securities International
Baroness Gloria Hooper, House of Lords
Marisol Mosquera, Aracari Travel
Isabel Ruiz, University of Oxford
Celia Szusterman, The Institute for Statecraft
Alberto J. Verme, Citigroup Inc.


Fideicomisos Instituidos en Relación con la Agricultura (FIRA)
Fondation CHANEL
Fundacion Tree
Johnson and Johnson
JP Morgan Chase Foundation
Microsoft Philanthropies
Peruvian Connection
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Charlie Tomberg and Tomberg Family Philanthropies
Cogan Family Foundation
Guerrant Foundation
Sarita Kenedy East Foundation, Inc
The Harry R. Halloran, Jr. Charitable Trust


Banco Bisa
Banco de Credito S.A.
Banco de Galicia
Banco FIE
Banco Fortaleza
Banco Ganadero
Banco Nacional de Bolivia
Banco Union
Blue Orchard
Capital + Safi
Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy – SB
Cynthia Calvert
Daughters of the Holy Spirit

Deekten Asset Management
Deutsche Bank
Dominican Sisters of Hope
Global Partnerships
Home Missioners of America
Inter-American Development Bank
Isenberg Family Charitable Foundation
Mercy Partnership Fund
Nancy Marsh
Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters
Partners for the Common Good

Sacred Heart Monastery
Sisters of Charity New York
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur MA
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur OH
Sisters of Notred Dame de Namur, Toledo OH
Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia
Sisters of St. Dominic
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet SL
Sisters of the Holy Names
St. Mary’s Institute of O’Fallon
The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
The Osprey Foundation
Triple Jump, B.V.