MICROLENDING AND WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT
In an interview for the Nigerian news, I was asked 'Why Women?' Men need support, too, why select only women for this project? I replied, "Women are integral to families and communities. When women are empowered, the greater good is served and men and children automatically benefit."
Microlending (also known as microcredit) has emerged as one of the most hopeful ways to address world poverty. Sweet Crude Leslye Wood and myself teamed up with two Global Citizen Journey alums to start a microlending program for the women of Oporoza and surrounding communities. The program is being administered by Warri-based
Erikpo Community Bank. Leslye and I were able
to seal the deal in person while in Nigeria in
August, 2006, and the group of four donated
the funds to get the project started.
When the GJC delegation was in Oporoza in 2005, several of us had the opportunity to meet with a group of community women. They spoke eloquently of the needs in their villages. From this meeting, a sub-group of delegates, American and Nigerian, began exploring the idea of establishing a microcredit program as a way to spur economic development in the area.
A few of us committed to initiate the project the provide seed funding. Through research, we learned about the dramatic success of microlending around the world, especially with women's groups. We believe a program like this could provide the revenue to make a significant dent in the local poverty level, by helping the women to choose appropriate businesses and develop the skills to market and operate them successfully. And we believe the empowerment that comes through this process will have enduring value beyond the financial impact.
We wanted to create a program that:
Empowers women locally so that they can
be advocates for themselves, their families
and their community.
Helps reduce poverty among women in the
Niger Delta through enterprise development
Gives the best chance for success of the
women's businesses by providing
'entrepreneurial empowerment,' including
training, peer support and ongoing
Is sustainable and scalable.
We knew we needed an experienced local partner to administer the program. Through extensive research, we identified appropriate candidates and evaluated their proposals. We chose Erikpo Community Bank, based in Warri, with extensive, successful microlending experience in the Oporoza area. Their approach is well thought out, encouraging women to build community as well as businesses - emphasizing empowerment and responsibility. Before disbursing loans, they offer in-depth training in bookkeeping, marketing, business and leadership development.
The program has begin, and will include loans to 60 women per year over the next two years. It's especially exciting to be kicking off this project the year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded.
MY VISION AND AN INVITATION
I am passionate about empowering women and envision expanding what we have begun, growing this first project into other regions, in Nigeria and beyond.
If you are interested in collaborating, want to donate funds or would like to learn more, I invite you to