Lilian Britez gets around in a wheelchair, something that has not impeded her independence or kept her from pursuing her dreams. She is a client of Fundación Paraguaya, with whom Accion is working on financial access for persons with disabilities. Lilian is in a solidarity group with 19 other women, a model that Fundación Paraguaya calls "comité de mujeres emprendedoras" (committee of entrepreneurial women), where women get skills training and microloans. Lilian's learned to make decorative flowers, which, combined with her income from selling Avon products, keeps her afloat and independent. But she aspires to be a lot more: she wants to help bring electricity to families in her community. And she's poised to do that through a partnership facilitated by Accion between Fundación Paraguaya and the Barefoot College.
India's Barefoot College seeks to transform the world's poorest villages through the empowerment and education of mothers and grandmothers. In Paraguay, they're going a step further and selecting women with disabilities to travel to India and attend their six-month training program in solar engineering, so participants like Lilian will come back to their village and bring electricity – and opportunity – for many more families. The program is fully funded by India's government, and the solar panels are donated by an Italian company.
When we met Lilian, we had the opportunity to witness her selection interview with Barefoot College's Latin America director Rodrigo Paris, who flew in from his office in Colombia for the selection of Paraguayan candidates.
"I feel very good to be a part of this committee," Lilian explains. "I feel healthier, motivated, and full of energy. I'm excited to travel to India and come back with more useful knowledge, something that will benefit more than just me."