Providing a brighter future for her children through finance skills
As Ruth walks her son to school, a sign on the front office at P.S. Refugio de La Paz, a Glasswing Community School in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, catches her eye. The sign was promoting a Finance Program for youth between the ages of 15 and 25 who were interested in learning financial literacy and other important life skills. Ruth decided to sign up and has since finished the first year of the Finance Program. She is using the skills she gained in the program to contribute to her family’s income.
Ruth was 15 years old when she became pregnant with her first child, Hugo. Like most teenage mothers, she was forced to grow up quickly after giving birth – she moved in with her son’s father, became a stay-at-home mom, and even dropped out of school in order to take care of her son. As the years went by, she slowly saw her opportunities become more limited. However, she was determined to do something more. She signed up for weekend classes and finished high school. Always with one goal in mind: to provide a brighter future for her children.
Ten years later, Ruth is now 25 years old, her son is eight and her daughter, Victoria, is three. When Ruth decided to sign up for the Finance Program, she immediately saw the opportunities widen for her. She had hope for a new way she could contribute to her household and invest in herself, her husband, and her children. After speaking with the School Coordinator to express interest in joining the program, they worked out a plan to make sure her children were in a safe environment and keeping busy while she was learning. Ruth was delighted at how flexible the school coordinator was. She was also grateful that the opportunity was open to young women like her, who although not enrolled in school, were driven to find ways to help their family.
Since the family lives just a few blocks from the school, Ruth and her two children went to school together on the days they had program sessions. Her son, a second grader at P.S. Refugio de La Paz, enrolled in the English Club, one of Glasswing’s after-school programs. ‘‘I’ve seen so many positive changes in my son since he joined the club He is quick to remind me that he has English Club on Mondays and Thursdays, and he is certainly learning. Hugo can sing the alphabet and count to 25 in English. Even though my youngest, Victoria, is too young for school, she loves coming with us because she gets to make crafts with the Art Club. She always brings something she made home with her,’’ Ruth says beaming with pride.
Throughout each Finance Program session, participants learn how to create a small business, as well as the importance of saving and investing, budgeting, and other key financial skills. Ruth and her classmates also learned tangible skills, like cosmetology, have taught Ruth how to give salon-quality manicures and pedicures. In just a few weeks, she’s already seen a number of clients. Ruth’s husband, a carpenter, makes a modest salary, but lately work has been inconsistent and he isn’t making enough money to meet the entire family’s needs. Prior to joining the program, Ruth had never worked before or earned her own money, but this new opportunity has given Ruth the ability to earn extra cash. ‘‘As a woman, I can now defend myself and I’ve gained a skillset I can use so that I don’t have to depend on my husband as much. The program has helped me make new friends too, it has given me the support system I need. Right now, I’m investing in my business, making sure I have the tools I need to give my clients the services they request. The ability to contribute to my home economically is liberating. It makes me feel good,’’ she says confidently. Now, working as a nail technician she is making her own money, which she uses to invest in her family, helping make ends meet and purchasing the tools she needs to expand her services.
Glasswing’s Finance Program is implemented, with the help of the Citi Foundation, benefitting over 1,500 youth across five countries. The program targets in-school and out-of-school youth in vulnerable areas, providing participants with crucial life skills to prepare them to gain employment or start their own business. For young mothers like Ruth, opportunities to gain new skills and use them to make an income are invaluable. These programs are helping young women like her become more independent, giving them the tools to break the vicious cycles of teenage pregnancy and poverty, helping them earn a stable income so that they can invest in their future.