I just finished reading an incredibly moving book called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I have always been interested in women’s rights so the book seemed like a no-brainer. It turned out to be much more disturbing and enlightening then I imagined. One of the solutions offered up by the book for helping women out of poverty is the concept of micro lending.
The idea behind micro lending came from a man named Muhammad Yunus, a professor in Bangladesh. The idea was to open lending to the impoverished by creating “a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity.” This concept of lending in small amounts to poor people has caught on and is used in many places around the world and by many non-profit agencies as a way of empowering the poor to help themselves.
There are many groups out there that utilize the micro loan program which you can donate money to; Kiva being one that is on a more personal level . Kiva is kind of a match.com for lenders and poor entrepreneurs. There is a full outline of the process here, but I can give you a quick summary: You have an account into which you donate a sum of money of your choosing. Then you peruse individuals looking for loans and choose one who you are interested in loaning to. There is an interest rate just like any other bank would apply and there is a timeline for repayment. Once the loan is repaid, your account is credited and you can start the process over again. You can finance one loan at a time or lend to multiple people.
When I read this I thought it was a very special way for mothers in this country and this city to reach their hands out to mothers all over the world to offer what help we can. Most of us live in a safe, warm, dry house without worrying about when we or our children will eat again. Loans can be as little as fifty dollars. Fifty dollars could change a life half way around the globe. Fifty dollars could help mothers care for their families. Think of what we could all do for little more than the cost of a tank of gas.
I hope you all will take a look at Kiva’s website or Professor Yunus’ to see how you can help. And if you have the time and inclination, read Half the Sky to learn more about what you can do about the atrocities many of our gender live with everyday and what you can do in small ways to help fight the good fight.
Written by Katie Mastovich