Building the Future of Finance for Women in Guatemala

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Two Friendship Bridge clients, along with a client’s daughter, go over their loan repayment schedules at a monthly Trust Bank meeting in San Andrés Itzapa, a city in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.

Every time Mayra, 34, talks about her financial struggles, her eyes well up with tears.

“‘Do not give up. You are not the type of woman who gives up. Where is your spirit?’” Mayra recalls a facilitator from Friendship Bridge encouraging her.

Friendship Bridge is a nonprofit social enterprise helping Indigenous Mayan women in rural communities of Guatemala gain access to sustainable business opportunities.

The facilitator trained Mayra in her Indigenous Mayan language through Non-Formal Education classes, a critical component of Friendship Bridge’s Microcredit Plus program aimed at alleviating poverty.

Started in 1998 with just 25 women, most of them widowed after three decades of civil war, Friendship Bridge now supports nearly 35,000 women annually through its 12 branches spread throughout the region. Almost 53% of Friendship Bridge’s clients live below Guatemala’s national poverty line.

Impact of Non-Formal Education on Female Entrepreneurship

Mayra undertook business development training at Friendship Bridge and gained critical access to peer networks and new markets. Mayra also took part in a “Trust Bank.” An integral part of Friendship Bridge’s Microcredit Plus program, a Trust Bank is made up of seven to 25 members, like Mayra, who co-guarantee individual members’ loans. In monthly repayment meetings, the women also participate in Non-Formal Education sessions. With her newfound support and knowledge, Mayra started a transportation business that delivers construction materials, sand, gravel, and pumice stone. She now has five trucks, one of which she drives herself.

She is also breaking gender stereotypes in Guatemala’s male-dominated transportation industry.

Teaching Sustainable Solutions

An individual loan from Friendship Bridge allowed Mayra (shown) to purchase a bulldozer in order to expand her construction materials transportation business. The loan helped her generate more profits and get one step closer to financial independence.

Guatemala is Latin America’s most unequal country. Two-thirds of the nation’s population live on less than $2 (U.S.) per day. Poverty affects Indigenous people disproportionately, as 80% of them experience deprivation in multiple aspects of life, including food security, nutrition, health, education, and gender equality.

Tracie Cordeiro, President and CEO of Friendship Bridge, is proud of clients like Mayra who meet their unique needs through specially designed credit products, technical training, Non-Formal Education, business assistance, and access to preventive health services.

“Mayra’s story speaks to me in so many ways. She is the epitome of our intended impact. She learned and grew her business without any formal education while also employing community and family members,” says Cordeiro. 

Mayra treasures being a part of a Trust Bank where conversations range from business to nutritious food.

“Normally, banks give you money, and you have to figure out what to do with it,” Mayra says. “But here they (Friendship Bridge) come, and they visit us to see how we are doing and whether our lives are running smoothly.”

For Cordeiro, building a strong relationship with clients like Mayra is the need of the hour to help women increase their resilience, grow businesses, create generational change, and experience greater empowerment. “That is the ultimate goal of Friendship Bridge,” she says.

Expanding Their Success

In 2023 alone, Friendship Bridge disbursed nearly $26 million in loans to nearly 35,000 women, reaching a year-end gross loan portfolio of $15 million, a 13% increase over 2022. Their microcredit program, and its compassionate components of serving small businesses without requiring collateral, was recognized in 60 Decibels’ 2023 Microfinance Index as a top performer in Latin America for its positive social impact.  


Friendship Bridge

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(303) 674-0717
Chief Development Officer: Nicole Eubanks


To create opportunities that empower Guatemalan women to build a better life.

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