Every morning before the sun rises over the Savur district of Turkey’s Mardin province, Neriman mixes fresh hay to feed her cows.
It’s just one of many daily tasks for the 44 year-old mother of nine—she also must make breakfast, ready the smaller children for school, and clean the house—but caring for her livestock is her favorite chore.
This might be because her cows help take care of Neriman and her family: The milk they produce is turned into yogurt and cheese for meals, with plenty of extra to sell at the market. It's a joyful and prosperous relationship, and it all started with a Kiva loan.
“After receiving the credit, my life changed,” says the grateful entrepreneur. “I know that I have a job, I have something to work on.”
‘Making few into plenty’
“After receiving the credit, my life changed.”
Before Neriman bought her first cow, she and her husband struggled financially in this historic area of Turkey where agriculture is a primary source of income for many.
“We are a big family,” says Neriman. “My spouse was trying to make ends meet on his own. I wanted to support him.”
She first heard about microloans in her community from a friend. She figured she would apply even though she had previously dismissed the idea that she could qualify for a loan without any capital to her name—a common situation for women in rural Turkey. She was surprised to be approved by the local loan partner and immediately set out to purchase livestock with the funding she received.
As the milk from one cow fed the children, Neriman sold the excess and diligently saved the proceeds. Soon, one cow became several, the small herd kept in a tidy area off of the main house. The milk they produce is turned into more cheese and yogurt sold at the market, allowing Neriman and her husband to pay for school tuition and host their son’s wedding.
“I learned to make few into plenty,” says Neriman with quiet pride.
Supporting women in Turkey
Neriman received her Kiva loan through the Turkish Grameen Microfinance Program (TGMP), a non-profit organization founded in 2003 as Turkey’s first microfinance institution. With a focus on helping Turkish women living in rural areas establish credit and access financial tools, TGMP has recently expanded its reach to the Syrian refugee community living in Turkey.
Further reading: How a microloan helped this Syrian refugee rebuild
As a Kiva Lending Partner, TGMP works on the ground to administer loans, collect payments, and encourage microentrepreneurs in their endeavors. Unlike traditional financial institutions that are housed in big commercial buildings, TGMP often employs community members that facilitate the work in casual settings where borrowers can meet each other and share their stories.
Neriman enjoys the camaraderie that comes with regular meetings that take place in a friend’s home. “It is a nice feeling. I like it.”
Learn more: Kiva 101: What's a Lending Partner?
Time for a little leisure—and literacy
While her days are packed with tending to her livestock, caring for her children and grandchildren, and myriad other household chores, Neriman tries to find a bit of time to enjoy her family and the beautiful scenery around Savur.
“Whenever we have the chance, we go on picnics, we go on strolls,” she says, though she admits these outings don’t happen as often as she’d like.
She also loves to read.“I like reading books,” she affirms with a nod. “When I can get my hands on a book, I read it,”
Ensuring that her kids are able to attend school is a priority for Neriman, who has a third grade education. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that national initiatives were implemented in Turkey to encourage girls to enroll — and stay — in school. “I support their education”, she attests.
Neriman’s plans for growing her business
“Being self-reliant. This is what I am most proud of.”
Now that Neriman has received and repaid her microloans, she can envision growing her animal husbandry venture even further by taking out another loan.
“I would like to have a bigger farm,” she muses. “I would like to have more animals. I want to expand my business.”
In the meantime, she is content knowing that she and her beloved cows are helping her family thrive: “Being self-reliant. This is what I am most proud of.”
Borrowers like Neriman are shining examples of how Kiva loans help people improve their lives and create financial independence.