María Cristina ZEPEDA PORRAS
Fellow Since 2000
This profile was prepared when María Cristina Zepeda Porras was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Although many organizations in Mexico make small grants to women, Siembra is dedicated to helping women develop gender oriented leadership ability and entrepreneurial skill to establish competitive business enterprises. Siembra selects viable, long-term projects, trains, makes a loan, then provides ongoing advice and services, such as international marketing help and a mandatory savings program.An example: Siembra selects women in a village, each of whom already weaves high quality carpets to sell in the local market. With a loan from Siembra, these individual entrepreneurs join forces to create a larger, more productive and efficient enterprise, a "factory" of sorts. Siembra provides management training, and links the factory to large buyers, such as stores in Mexico City. The factory makes it easier for women to establish a brand name and reputation, and to secure ongoing contracts. Because the factory is a cooperative, every worker is an owner. Siembra promotes a savings program named GEMS (Groups of Entrepreneurs Saving Money),where each member must put money in the bank, saving as much or as little as she wants; by putting aside something every month, women increase their power in the family and status in society.