Microfinance a Potent Tool against Poverty

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Microfinance a Potent Tool against Poverty


Byline: Abbie Laugtug, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

We all know the global economy is in decline, but we may not all realize that women are hit harder than men in these difficult times. Congressional findings show that as the economy worsens, so does the plight of women. Women work longer hours for less pay, have fewer opportunities for economic advancement and have diminished access to government social-safety nets. However, the message coming out of a recent hearing on Capitol Hill is that microfinance projects offer hope.

Take Jinesi Mafuta. Within five years of becoming a member of her Village Savings and Loan group in Malawi, Mrs. Mafuta bought a cow, increased the size of her farm plot and even bought enough additional land to build two rental houses. Her husband, Eya, was so inspired by what his wife and the other women in her savings-and-loan group accomplished that he established a similar group for men.

Microfinance is a means of providing financial services - including interest-bearing savings accounts, lines of credit and money transfers - to poor people who have neither jobs nor collateral. It is a system based on mutual trust and accountability. The savings-led approach was pioneered by CARE (the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) in the 1990s as a way to help people living in poverty gain a foothold in the economic landscape. In the decade since then, more than 1 million people have made use of CARE microfinance programs.

In Mrs. Mafuta's Village Savings and Loan, she and a dozen other women save their money and make small loans to one another. As a result, the women have started small businesses and are contributing income to their households. In the past decade, CARE - one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world - has introduced the Village Savings and Loan concept to thousands of communities in developing countries. …

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