Exploring Youth Financial Services: The Case of Pro Mujer in Bolivia
Youth in Bolivia face significant limitations in finding decent employment or accessing financing to start a business. Pro Mujer is an international women’s development and microfinance organization that alleviates poverty in Latin America by providing financial services, healthcare and training to poor women entrepreneurs. This case study details the Youth Solidarity Group program in Bolivia which consists of 4-6 young people ranging in age from 14-23 years. These young people receive one week of specialized pre-credit training, which includes a business practicum as well as business planning exercises. Once youth have completed the training, they are then inserted into a Pro Mujer adult communal bank, a group of 20-30 women who receive loans and training as a group, and function within the existing Pro Mujer branch infrastructure. Youth solidarity groups function according to the group’s bylaws and must adhere to meeting schedules and savings requirements, and attend training sessions. After the pilot test and roll-out, results indicate that the idea of combining youth with experienced clients in an existing communal bank seemed to make sense from both a cost and social perspective where older clients were expected to serve as mentors. However, this did not always happen with positive results. Also, cost cutting efforts may have proven to be more expensive in the end. Finally, more investment in proper market research, product development, staff and infrastructure is required to determine the differing needs of this heterogeneous market.