Why do you lend?
It was a statistic quoted far and wide in the past month, yet it remains shocking: women do two-thirds of the world’s work, yet earn only 10 per cent of its income and own a mere one per cent of its means of production. As we look back on International Women’s Month, it is important to continue to remember and support women worldwide who struggle for their livelihood year round.
77 per cent of the entrepreneurs we support at lendwithcare are women. So why is lendwithcare proud to work with so many women and why does this drive so many of our lenders?
For many of our lenders, both men and women, lendwithcare offers them a way to help bridge the gap between the sexes. Indeed in a recent poll our lenders said that gender was the most significant factor they consider when deciding which entrepreneur to lend to. As one lender, Lucinda put it: “In many countries girls and women do not have such a fortunate start in life. Microfinance goes towards equalising their chances.”
This is especially significant for the 60 per cent of our lenders who are also women; many lend through an empathy that stems from a shared role in life and the similar disadvantages they may face. Another lender, Erica said: “I lend because I feel very strongly about helping women whose lives are made hard purely for the fact they are women. Women shoulder the effects that war and poverty have on communities, but they have to remain strong to feed their families.”
Most of our entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to provide a better life for their families – such as Enisa Skenderwho used her savings to buy a greenhouse where she now grows vegetables so that she can support her husband who is ill with an inflammation of the brain. Enisa is from Bosnia & Herzegovina where lendwithcare is working with helping women, many widowed, to rebuild their life in the aftermath of war by working with the MFI Zene za Zene which lends exclusively to women and is part of the wider Women for Women International network.
Marina Zavala © CARE
This sense of solidarity was most apparent at The Co-operative's event for International Women’s Day, where CARE International was promoting the campaign Walk in her Shoes. With empowerment for women high on the agenda for both CARE and The Co-operative, stories of juggling jobs and children were abound from speakers as varied as Fairtrade producers to Paralympic athlete Sophie Warner. Their stories echo many of our entrepreneurs who battle against the odds. One example is Marina Zavalafrom Ecuador who despite losing her legs in her fight against polio, looks after her four children and runs her business raising and selling livestock – now thanks to a loan from lendwithcare.
The issue of female empowerment and social mobility is currently being publicised by the many supporters participating in CARE’s Walk in Her Shoes campaign. By walking 10,000 steps a day, they do so in solidarity with the women around the world who have to walk for hours every day simply to collect the water and firewood they and their families need to survive. What is more, the weight of what they carry home can often way more than 20kg – the equivalent of the UK’s baggage allowance.
Yet the burden that these women carry is more than physical; it leaves them with little time, energy or simply the self-belief they need to enter into education or employment. Developing a business can offer such women a chance to work their own way out this cycle of poverty.
The impact of their business does not end with the individual woman who takes out the loan. Studies have shown that providing a loan to a woman can be especially transformative because they spend a greater proportion of their income on their household than do men. The advantages are more than financial –the business can bring increased self-esteem and mutual respect within families and communities.
As lender Susan described: “I lend because this is a practical way of empowering women. Not only am I providing funds for women to escape the poverty cycle, but also an opportunity for them to improve their home life, increase their business skills and portray a positive role model to their friends and family. My loan may be to one impoverished woman, but the benefits of that loan spread throughout the entire community.” Make a loan to a woman therefore and you are not only offering a helping hand to her, but to the men, women and children around her.
Why do you lend? Tell us in your ‘Why I lend’ statement in your profile. Guest blogs are also very welcome – email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to write a blog about why you lend.
By Emma Howard, assistant at lendwithcare.org