In May 2020, Cordaid Investment Management partnered with ASEI, a microfinance institution in El Salvador. Both organisations are committed to working towards financial inclusion and supporting hard-working women entrepreneurs, eliminating poverty.
From an early age, Lucia Torres de Ortiz was very entrepreneurial. Forced by poverty, she started selling products on behalf of others during the weekends whilst studying during weekdays. Over time she learned that selling the products she cooked herself was more profitable. She used to sell tortillas, tamales and pastries, walking around with a basket in a small port town in El Salvador.
Lucia´s hard work paid off, and she grew her business little by little. “I have been a client of ASEI for 14 years. With their loans, I was able to buy a mill for my business and lately a car”, says Lucia. Now she is planning to expand her business and have a smoothies shop. “My dream is to build a house”, says Lucia.
ASEI is a microfinance institution (MFI) founded in 1990 with the purpose of supporting very poor people who lack access to finance and belong to the subsistence sector. Their main driver is to contribute to the economic and social development of El Salvador, with a strong focus on small female entrepreneurs.
“ASEI follows the Community Bank model, which states that women are (in most of the cases) the ones who look after the household. If they are supported, the circle of poverty with their children can be eliminated. In El Salvador, this is also the case, most single mothers or entrepreneurial women need working capital to be able to sustain and grow the business that generates income for their family”, says Silvia Solorzano de Valdez, ASEI’s Planning and Development Manager.
ASEI enables more than 20,000 female clients to sustain and grow their small businesses by providing not only loans but also non-financial services. “We serve women entrepreneurs like Lucia because they are among the most vulnerable sectors of the country. Each person in our team works to fulfill our mission to support the Salvadorians that want to improve their lives”, says Juan Carlos Martínez, ASEI’s Business Manager
Besides loans, ASEI offers training on business management and financial education (e.g. budget planning and prevention of over-indebtedness). They also organise health sessions to discuss topics such as breast or cervical cancer. At the branch in San Salvador, ASEI has its own clinic that provides health care. The MFI is planning to expand its health services to 3 cities with the creation of a mobile clinic.
Microfinance institutions such as ASEI are vital in countries such as El Salvador. Even though its economy has grown tremendously, it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Almost a third of the population lives on USD 5.50 per day (World Bank, 2017), and only 19% of the poorest have access to finance (Global Findex 2017).
Cordaid Investment Management (CIM) provided a loan of EUR 670,000 to ASEI. ASEI has an evident social mission that aligns with CIM’s ambition. Both organisations are promoting financial inclusion as a way to create resilience and reduce poverty. With this loan, ASEI will grow its portfolio and provide impoverished and vulnerable women with the means to improve their well-being, breaking the vicious cycle of poverty.