Celebrating Women around the World!

Contributions from Kiva Fellows around the globe, compiled by Mei-ing Cheok.

Solidarity - A group of Ghanaian women after their weekly meeting with their loan officer

The beauty of microfinance is that it gives people at the wrong end of the income spectrum opportunities to step out of the poverty trap. It also provides women the confidence and security that comes from earning their own income, leading to greater gender equality.

Financially and economically empowering women, studies have shown, has a greater ‘trickle-down’ effect, as they tend to spend more of their earnings on the household expenses such as school fees and healthcare. Thus, it benefits not only themselves, but also their families and even their communities.

This International Women’s Day, Kiva Fellows celebrate individuals and organisations around the world who have contributed to the advancement of women in their communities. We salute you.

Cambodia: From Housewife to Entrepreneur

By Stephanie Sibal

Norn, entrepreneur from Cambodia

Norn, a petite 28-year-old former housewife with two young children, used to rely solely on her husband’s US$5 per day income as a blacksmith. With her loan, Norn braved her first ever trip outside her tiny neighborhood to buy groceries and opened up a store in front of her home. She can now make up to US$15 in gross income per day. While the ins and outs of running her own business are an ongoing learning process, Norn is thankful. She now has regular customers who have also become her friends. 

Ghana:  Freedom from Hunger

By Mei-ing Cheok

The Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN) provides thousands of micro loans to women in rural and semi-urban areas through its Freedom from Hunger programme. George Tokpo, Director of Operations, says, “When we empower women, they are able to provide their families. We acknowledge that women are more responsible when it comes to the upbringing of their children.” Mr Tokpo added that women make better clients, “Women are able to find jobs much more easily than men. They’re a lot more adaptable. If one business fails, they will pick something else up very quickly. This lowers the likelihood of defaults.” (read more about how microfinance is empowering women in Ghana here)

CRAN team: Gifty (in charge of borrower profiles), George (Director of Operations) and Cecilia (journal updates)

Rwanda: Francoise’s Fabulous Story

By Adam Cohn

In the video blog, meet Francoise, who started selling bananas with her first loan and today, owns a provision shop, land and is on her way to starting a farm. This goal-driven woman is providing for her family of eight and doing a great job of it.


Armenia: A tale of two women

By Caree Edson

Hripsik in her hair salon

Women’s Day is also celebrated in Armenia and because the holiday falls on a Tuesday this year, the government has declared Monday a holiday as well ensuring a nice long weekend for everyone.  While inquiring about women borrowers who stand out in SEF’s history of lending, I was immediately directed to Hripsik Movsisyan and Raya Martirosyan. These women lead vastly different lives -one owns a salon in the city, while the other works on her family’s farm in the countryside- but both represent the warmth and strength that I have come to appreciate in the Armenian people.

Hripsik is a hardworking widow with two children. She opened a salon in 2009 and applied for a loan from SEF for an air-conditioner to make her salon more comfortable during the hot summer months in Yerevan. This was a great move for the business and Hripsik was able to pay off the loan years before it was due in full.

Raya with her family and their cattle

Raya Martirosyan has been teaching math in a school in a tiny town named Agarak for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, her family cannot survive on her low wages and her farm is necessary for additional income and stability. She applied for a loan to buy cattle and has been paying her loan back consistently since September.

These women represent the struggles that many Armenian families face and the risks and hard work involved in making ends meet.  This coming women’s day should be a celebration of all the women making sacrifices everyday to better the quality of life for themselves and their families.

Bolivia: Guadalupe Cárdenas, a Remarkable Woman

By Klaartje Vreeken

Guadalupe (in blue) and women from Comité Cívico Popular de la Ciudad de El Alto

Guadalupe Cárdenas was beaten up by a policeman and lost her child in 2002. Three years ago, she started a new institution called Comité Cívico Popular de la Ciudad de El Alto, which fights for women’s and their children’s rights in El Alto, the city above La Paz where many poor Bolivians live.

The first campaign Guadalupe started was helping poor mothers to baptize their babies and to get their legal papers. Her institution provides the dresses for the babies and has so far, baptized around 10,000 babies.

In 2010 Guadalupe also campaigned against cervical cancer. Using an ambulance, they screened around 3,500 women for cervical cancer For 400 women, the cancer had already reached an advanced stage. However, Guadalupe’s group also managed to detect early stages of cancer in around 1,000 women.

Mexico: Champion for the People

By John Farmer

Pily, she's no zombie

CrediComun’s Kiva Coordinator, Pily, is a strong young woman who took part in the UNAM (the largest university in Mexico) student demonstrations in 1999, when the university announced that tuition would rise from practically nothing to around $150 per semester.  “We were a generation that protested, that mobilized; we risked our lives for something more than selfish interests, and we refused to play the role of a zombie.”

Her resume further illustrates her activism: working with street children in Chiapas, building houses for (and with) the poor on the outskirts of Mexico City, and working in the organic food industry. She has served as Kiva Coordinator for six months, and is moving to a new position within the company — she’ll be developing the social projects that CrediComun undertakes.

Kyrgyzstan: Man’s Day

And finally, we do have a tribute to men. Check out Charlie Wood’s recent blog on how to be a manly man.

Happy International Women’s Day!

The contributors to this blog are part of KF 14 (the 14th class of Kiva Fellows) scattered around the world.

Find out how you can lend to a Kiva Entrepreneur or become a Kiva Fellow.

About the author