Maria Elena Querejazu(Sembrar, Bolivia).
Maria Elena grew up in Bolivia surrounded by poverty and inequality.
From a very young age, she knew that this was wrong, and vowed to dedicate her life to improving the lives of others. Always active in social issues, she elected to study sociology and business during her university days knowing that it would equip her with the skills she would later need. Her commitment to others combined with her MBA has resulted in a career that has made a real, positive difference in the lives of those that mean so much to her.
In 1984, she began her career in a special project formed by the President of Bolivia called the Fondo Social de Emergencia whose mission was to mitigate the very difficult conditions for the poor caused by hyperinflation that then existed. During this time, she became involved with a small team who began to see that real change in the lives of the poor was possible. The team believed that if there was an opportunity made available to the poor, positive change would follow. This lead to the creation of Prodem Foundation in 1989.
Maria Elena became the Managing Director of Prodem Foundation. Their mission was to invest in the people. By acquiring financial support, they were able to offer small loans to those motivated to improve their lives. The results were even better than expected. This led them to create Bancosol in 1992, a pioneer specializing in Microfinance. Maria Elena became the Chief Credit manager and oversaw a growth from a $4 million portfolio and 13 thousand clients in 1992 to $200 million and 100,000 clients by the year 2000.
Maria Elena returned to Prodem as CEO in 2000 to create new financing models. During this period she led the development of a new model of financing for SMEs that was focused in the agricultural sector.
The name of Prodem was changed to Solydes. Solydes was the most successful microfinance institution in Bolivia, creating along with Bancosol, the two biggest microfinance banks serving the poor.
To further focus on the small producers in the agricultural sector, Solydes provide funding for the creation of Sembrar. Maria Elena joined Sembrar as managing director in 2009.
Sembrar had the important purpose of supporting comprehensive development in rural areas. Sembrar targets the small agricultural producer and provides a comprehensive approach to mitigate the risks posed by agricultural microfinance. Sembrar’s approach includes providing technical assistance and help in gaining access to markets.
Today, Maria Elena serves as the President of the Board of Directors of Sembrar and serves on many other boards including Finances de Todos and Prisma. Sought after as a speaker at many international events over the years, she has a passion for sharing her knowledge with those around the world.