Uma Kraka Fund, Surinam
In 2001, Mama Cash granted a four-year interest-free loan of 50,000 Dutch guilders to the Surinam Nationale Vrouwen Beweging (NVB, National Women’s Movement) and the Women’s Business Group (WBG). This sum was used to establish the Uma Kraka Fund, which means “women’s power” in Surinamese. Just like the Mama Cash Guarantee Fund, Uma Kraka became a role model for banks; eventually, the purpose was for women to have access to regular bank credits and investment capital. The loan for setting up a private business was to offer women alternatives from the poverty that prevailed in Surinam.
The entrepreneurs started businesses such as a touring company, a hotdog stand, a plant shop, a convenience store and bar in middle of the jungle. They also learned how to write a business and marketing plan and how to keep accounts. Due to Surinam’s poor economic situation, most women’s businesses did not thrive; it was extremely difficult for women to survive. Various evaluations exposed that several of the entrepreneurs had to cope with domestic violence. For these women, the loan was a survival strategy just as much as a stepping-stone to a thriving business.
This complicated situation led to a large number of loan defaults, and the fund ended up in dire straits. Mama Cash and her Surinamese partners tried to find a third party who would take over the fund and its debts, but this was to no avail. Mama Cash decided to convert half of each active loan into a grant, subject to the precondition that NVB and WBG would prepare a viable plan to revive the fund. The loans were to become due and payable in 2005. NVB, WBG and Uma Kraka Fund still exist today.
In hindsight, Uma Kraka Fund had a much wider impact than as a mere credit facility. It has contributed to the development of an infrastructure for women’s entrepreneurship in Surinam.