This past year the ESPERA program turned 10 years old! In recognition of this important milestone Mary’s Pence initiated a yearlong evaluation process in collaboration with our ESPERA partners. The goal was to learn from our past by listening to women representing our 10 ESPERA partners in 5 countries, and to identify key goals for the future of ESPERA. The Evaluation Process
Evaluators and facilitators with experience working with women’s groups in El Salvador were engaged to support us through the process. The work began in January at the ESPERA 10th anniversary celebration in La Palma, El Salvador. Fifty women were present, made up of representatives from all ESPERA partner organizations and Mary’s Pence. The facilitators gathered information on how the women’s lives have changed since they first started the program, and what barriers they have faced to their economic autonomy and empowerment.
The work continued with a more in-depth evaluation of each of the 5 women’s organizations in El Salvador. Two focus groups were held with each of the 5 ESPERA partners in El Salvador – one with organization leaders, and one with women participating in the lending pools. In addition, the facilitators visited with 21 women to learn more about their small business initiatives
A 15-person team made up of women from Mary’s Pence ESPERA staff and from 5 ESPERA partners in El Salvador are reviewing the evaluation. They are working on sharing the information with women at the local level. Though they have not completed their analysis, it’s clear that the evaluation provides a lot of valuable insight.
From the multitude of voices and opinions expressed in the final report, some themes are emerging. Strengths of the program include: women having access to affordable loans; the growing feeling of independence among participants; and women recognizing the importance of emotional wellness. Challenges for the program include: strengthening the loan program; providing more resources to ensure economic independence; and broadening the scope of emotional wellness support.
“I learned to value myself during this entire process, to feel that I mattered and that I could do what I wanted … these groups have served as a space where we can value ourselves and make us think we can do it.”
When we look back over the past 10 years, from ESPERA’s inception to now, we are in awe of what our partner organizations and the individual women have accomplished. Now, with the evaluation, it is a great opportunity for our partner organizations to own the results and work in partnership to deepen and strengthen the work. We look forward to working with them in solidarity.