Helping Women Thrive: Give a Loan, Create a Community Role Model

By Rachel Lewis, Senior Investment Manager for Africa​, Kiva

Worldwide, women have much less economic opportunity, security, and freedom, but microloans help women obtain capital they otherwise would not have access to. This support allows women to start their own businesses, go to school and invest in the health of their communities and families, creating a ripple effect in which entire societies thrive and women are regarded as role models and leaders.​

Most of these women have simple dreams and plans for themselves, whether it is to provide food for their children, obtain books to go to school or access clean water. And microfinancing organizations and crowdfunding platforms like Kiva are helping women achieve them.

Kiva is an international nonprofit based in San Francisco with a mission of expanding financial access to help underserved communities thrive. Founded in 2005 with an emphasis on fostering global financial inclusion through sustainable solutions, Kiva celebrates and supports people looking to create better futures for themselves, their families and their communities. Visitors to the site browse through individual profiles, stories, and focus areas and choose the entrepreneurial projects they want to lend to through organizations that are on the ground in countries all around the world, called Field Partners. Lending contributions can be as small as $25, and once the borrower’s loan is repaid, that money can be lent to another project, then another, and then another. $25 on the site goes a long way – and Kiva lenders can truly see where.

Because women are so likely to face financial exclusion globally, Kiva has dedicated many of their efforts to assure that women from every corner of the world are represented by including a special section dedicated to funding women’s projects on their website. This past International Women’s Day, Kiva funded 10,000 women’s loans with a special match-day promotion that includes $1.5 million in funds from partners like Bank of America, the ASOS Foundation, and eBay.

While it might appear that the loan only serves one woman, more often than not it creates a ripple effect in the communities where female borrowers live. These crowdfunded loans can help borrowers start a business that changes their community by providing goods and services to underserved neighborhoods, to help a woman feed her family or help a woman explore her passion for the first time, inspiring others on her path. 100% of every dollar lent on Kiva goes to funding loans. Kiva covers costs primarily through optional donations, as well as through support from grants and sponsors. Here are some stories from loan borrowers who have changed the fabric of their communities:

Regina survived human trafficking – and now her clothing store is also a sanctuary for those affected by it

Regina Evans, Oakland resident, owns a store called Regina’s Door, a theater and apparel shop that also serves as community spot and a haven to those affected by human trafficking. In the past, she’s hired survivors of trafficking, and put on in-store programming for survivors including healing circles, improv, spoken word and poetry. When Regina’s doors first swung open, she had no backstock, working with only 35 pieces of clothing and a 3-month lease. A month later, 193 Kiva lenders supported a $5,000 loan for Regina to purchase stock and buy simple necessities like hangers and an “open” sign. “That was like a million dollars to me,” Regina says of the loan.

Phearong defied her fate and is now a women’s rights leader in Cambodia

Growing up in poor, rural Cambodia, Phearong was resigned to a future she couldn’t choose. As the youngest daughter, she was expected to have an arranged marriage, stay home and take care of her parents. She had no female role models and a limited income. But thanks to Kiva and a field partner aimed at empowering women in rural Cambodia, Phearong was able to access a scholarship to and spot at a university. And thanks to 46 Kiva lenders who believed in Phearong, she also took out a $2,000 0% interest loan that covered living expenses, and as a result, had time to gain work experience in the field of empowering young Cambodian women. As a result, she was offered an internship and then contract with the European Union. “In 10 years, I want to be a young woman who fights for women’s rights,” Phearong shared. “Both men and women can bring great success if they can work together equally. Some men think women are weaker. In politics, men think that women care a lot about the small stuff – kids, house, kitchen – so they would not think properly about big things like developing the country or policies. That keeps women behind.”


Phyllis is a domestic abuse survivor now taking on a male-dominated industry

Phyllis escaped an abusive marriage to initially find herself in a vulnerable situation: a single mother working in livestock, a field primarily dominated by men who dismissed her and did not take her seriously as a business leader. But by using a $1,000 Kiva loan funded by 35 lenders from around the world, she was able to build up her reputation and her business. The extra income is helping her to make a better life for her children and to pay to see a doctor for chronic health issues. 

Joy’s nonprofit coffee shop prioritizes employment for women recovering from addiction

When she turned 50, Joy started a program called Project Empower to empower women to live their full potential by learning life practices to help them face their life traumas—including addiction, abuse and poverty. The Coffee Connection is her nonprofit business that provides employment training and job creation, specifically hiring women from Project Empower with a history of addiction, even jail or prison. A $5,000 Kiva loan powered by 223 individual lenders helped Joy to cover refurbished coffee brewers, packaging and service equipment.

You can make a serious impact on someone’s life today by visiting and making a loan to the borrower of your choosing.

Join the conversation by sharing a story of a woman who has helped you succeed. #InvestInWomen

Twitter: @Kiva

Instagram: @Kiva.Org

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