Actually two women’s lives.
Last night a group of 30 inspiring women around Australia gave two micro loans. These 30 women came from all walks of life – a mum from a farm in north west NSW, an artist from Melbourne, a mining consultant from central Queensland…
Over the last 6 weeks this powerful group of women completed the 6 Step Challenge, 10thousandgirl’s new ‘Michelle Bridges’ style online personal finance program. And they blitzed it!!
They documented their life plans, tracked their spending, worked out their net worth, negotiated rates on home loans, high interest savers and utility bills. They reviewed their insurance, consolidated super. They discussed investment principles and the behaviour of cash, property and shares. They opened super letters for the first time and made calls to their super fund to change their investment mix to fit with their age and stage. In week 4 they documented their personal investing plans, asking themselves:
- What are my #1 financial goals?
- How much money do I need for each goal?
- When do I need it? What’s my timeframe?
- What investment options suit that goal and timeframe?
- What are my next steps?
And last night they wrapped up by mapping out their personal and professional support networks. They discussed the different professional support roles, how to find trusted advisors and learnt good questions to ask when approaching and engaging an adviser.
Then they wrapped up with an INSPIRATION FEST. Discussing what inspires them, who do they inspire? How do they stay inspired?
Well, wonderful women. You certainly inspired me. Thank you for your Ripple Effect. May it be felt across your life, among your family and friends lives, in your work and community life and as part of your program fee, you each donated $10 into a pool and were able to donate two micro loans, one to Merelita Marama and one to Linita Ponitini.
So thank you for your globally felt Ripple Effect…
Merelita Marama, Nasautoka Fiji
Loan Use: Sewing
Term: 26 Week
Some people are born with a natural talent. Merelita Marama (47) is one of them. She loves sewing for the people in her village and is a skilled seamstress. Merelita has built a steady client base among her friends, neighbours, office workers and church members. With her loan, she intends to buy more sewing equipment to help expand her business. Merelita is certain she will make greater profits, which will improve the lives of her four children.
Linita Ponitini, Tonga
Loan Use: Farm produce
Term: 52 Week
Linita Ponitini has three children under twelve. Her goal is to build a house for her family. She and her husband grow a range of crops, which Linita sells in the local market. But their profits are insufficient to cover both family and business expenses. So Linita is seeking a loan to buy seeds and seedlings to increase the farm’s production and yield.
Want to provide micro loans? Sign up http://www.goodreturn.org
Want to do the 10thousandgirl 6 Step Challenge? Sign up http://www.10thousandgirl.com
The fun bookclub-like GIG (Girl Investment Group) program supports you and girlfriends, workmates or new 10thousandgirl friends to complete the 10thousandgirl Personal Finance Program. The aim is to learn the principles behind personal finance and investing in an engaging, supportive and light-hearted environment.
GIGs are all about learning the life and finance skills we need to know but often didn’t learn at home or at school. Supported by interactive webinars, videos and beautiful workbook materials, 10thousandgirl supplies the Personal Finance Program with an agenda and learning materials for each meeting, and you let your group know what time and who’s bringing tea, treats or wine.
Financially empower yourself while 10% of your program fees go toward providing a microloan for a woman to start a new business and lift herself and her family out of poverty. Pretty inspiring!
Want to find out more?
Here’s an overview of GIGs (Girl Investment Groups) and the NEW 10thousandgirl Personal Finance Program.
Interested and want to find other like-minds in your area? Register your interest.
Already decided this is for you? Here’s the Steps to Getting Your GIG Started.
Currently a financial services professional looking for opportunities to financially empower women in your local area? Interested in a Mentor opportunity? Read on…
Photo of the week: Sanju
Sanju understands better than most the importance of education. Raised in a poor family, she was married at just 10 years old. With four young children and a husband working at a brick factory, Sanju was desperate to increase her family’s income. She used a series of small loans from one of Opportunity International Australia’s partners in India, C-DOT, to purchase and raise cattle. As a result, all four of her children are now attending school. Since joining C-DOT, Sanju has learned to sign her name. It’s clear that her own lack of education will not stop her determination to become a successful entrepreneur and give her children a brighter future.
Original post found here
Via the blog of our Microfinance Partner Opportunity International Australia
Imagine if you didn’t have access to basic healthcare or couldn’t afford a minor treatment to save the life of a loved one…
For many of Opportunity International Australia’s clients, this is a reality.
Often families are faced with the sudden and unexpected illness of a family member that could easily be treated with basic healthcare. However, for many people living in rural regions with limited money, even minor illnesses that they are forced to leave untreated can be devastating.
In India, Opportunity is partnering with a strategic and technical partner in healthcare to address this issue – The Healing Fields Foundation. Opportunity plans to educate 70 women in basic healthcare procedures and disease prevention methods, empowering them to become Community Healthcare Facilitators (CHFs).
These CHFs will each educate approximately 250 households in their community about personal healthcare and imparting crucial information about the state-provided facilities which many families are unaware they have access to.
Microfinance is effective in giving people a chance to increase their income by growing a small business but in some cases, a small shock such as ill health can push a family back into poverty. The sustainability of income improvements as a result of microfinance is therefore challenged and its long term positive impacts can become unstable.
To combat this, the CHFs will also encourage collectives of families to establish health savings groups which can be accessed should a group member become ill and be faced with healthcare costs.
The program has the potential to reach over 87,500 people (70 CHFs reaching 250 households of five people) and educate them on the importance of healthcare and saving for these incidents. The program aims to reduce mortality rates, lower the incidence of disease, increase income security and bring communities together in collectives.
Programs like this offer Opportunity’s clients a more holistic approach to reducing poverty.
When you join a GIG and financially educate yourself further, part of the proceeds of your course get donated via Opportunity International to provide microloans and contribute to a dignified way of reducing poverty.
Rebecca Parkinson, a member of a Sydney-based GIG (Girl Investment Group), wrote the following email to her fellow GIG members to explain her experiences on a recent trip. She shares with us how she was struck by a vision while in a bamboo hut in the Philippines. Go Bec and thank you for your insight and inspiration!
I just wanted to tell you about this – couldn’t keep it to myself.
Last Thursday I found myself crowded into a bamboo hut, surrounded by 30 Filipino women and their children perched on benches & plastic chairs. Some were standing just outside the door holding umbrellas to protect them from the intermittent tropical rain. An array of popular local snacks were laid out in the middle of the room.*
The formal part of the meeting was completed, and we’d just finished hearing from each women in turn introducing themselves, describing their families, the industry they (and for some, their husbands) were involved in, and the size of each of their business loans. Many had recently received their very first 6 month loan, having borrowed 6,000 pesos – $125. One or two women were on their 13th loan cycle, one had even graduated to an individual loan. Questions posed to these women about their businesses were answered by a number from the group – the pride in these who were further down the path and had grown their businesses was vocal and supportive.
It was evident that they appreciated this gathering together of like minded neighbours – all of whom were taking a chance in financial matters, stepping out into an endeavour that was new to them, a little unsure, maybe daunted, but motivated to ‘have a crack’. And all so supportive of each other, and the realities, the challenges, responsibilities and opportunities their financial service – in this case a loan – was representing to each one.
And suddenly I was struck by a vision of us some day in the future, describing our initial hesitant steps to create our GIG group, our own support network, trying out different strategies, making time to gather regularly & learn together, and in time, proudly telling others about each others’ achievements.
If these women can do it, and gain so much, so can we. What an inspiration they were to me right at that moment!
I just had to tell you about this experience, the correlation was so evident.
Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks,
*sticky coconut rice & moscavado sugar – yum!
Rebecca visited the Philippines as part of her job with Opportunity International Australia who exist to provide opportunities for people living in poverty to transform their lives.
Get your finances on girls and see how you can help empower yourselves and start a ripple effect to help women globally. To find out more about the Personal Finance Program and how to form or join a GIG please go here. To find out more about microfinance go here or about our microfinance partner Opportunity International go here
So what exactly is microfinance? 10thousandgirl’s microfinance partner, Opportunity International help us go back to basics and explain the concept before Jhunu and Minati share their story.
What is microfinance?
Microfinance includes basic financial services – including small loans, savings accounts, fund transfers and insurance. Alongside non-financial services such as business training, microfinance assists people living in poverty who wouldn’t usually qualify for regular banking services because they have no form of collateral or formal identification.
Loans as small as $100 help people in poverty start or grow their own small business. This enables them to earn an income so they can afford food, clean water, proper shelter and an education for their children.
Through local partners in the countries where we work, Opportunity is a provider of socially focused microfinance – existing to help people out of poverty above all else.
How does it work?
By helping a mother buy a sewing machine to start a tailoring business or a father buy seeds to plant a vegetable garden, small loans enable people in poverty to earn an income and provide for their families. As each business grows, loans are paid back and lent out again. With 97% of loans repaid, the cycle continues, year after year. Each successful business feeds a family, employs more people and eventually helps empower a whole community.
Are you part of a GIG (Girl Investment Group)? Take charge of your own finances and in the process provide microloans to help women around the world lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Read more to join the campaign and create your ripple effect. More stories here.
I loved this ‘We need an economy that provides for people. It has to be fundamentally, radically brought back into control and harnessed for the well-being of society. Not for making money, but for making dignified livelihoods and for the betterment of community.’ Rebecca Adamson offers Native American views on scarcity, Wall Street, and how to thrive in hard times.
Indigenous peoples have known hard times. There are signs of drought, crop failure, and forced migration over the millennia, and of course these peoples survived centuries of colonialism. When we were looking for some wisdom on building a new economy, I immediately thought of Rebecca Adamson. Native peoples have developed societies that function within ecological limits and counter the tendency of societies to polarize between rich and poor, powerful and excluded. Adamson, a Cherokee, is founder of First Nations Development Institute and First Peoples Worldwide. She works globally with grassroots tribal communities, sits on the boards of the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Calvert Social Investment Fund, and is an advisor to the United Nations on rural development.
Sarah: When you look ahead at the coming months, perhaps years, of economic downturn, what do you see coming, and what does indigenous experience teach us about what we should be doing?
Rebecca: I’ve gotta say, it’s about time the bubbles burst. I don’t want to see anybody without a home or a job, but Wall Street had to come to reality sooner or later. I just wish they were taking the brunt of it instead of Main Street.
President Obama assumes that through more spending we can stimulate the financial sector. But why would we want to save something that had no productivity for human life? Until we move away from that paradigm, I don’t hold out too much optimism for the next months, or the next years, or even the next seven generations.
What indigenous experience tells us is that an economy is about fairness and equity. It should be for the well-being of your people and the sacredness of creation. You take care of your place because it provides for you. And the place provides for you because you’re protecting it. We have to begin to rethink our economic system so that it’s accountable for our place.
Sarah: So what is an economy for?
Rebecca: The economy used to be about livelihoods and the provision of a household, but we’ve lost that purpose. We have created an economic system with a goal of material wealth, rather than human development.
We need an economy that provides for people. It has to be fundamentally, radically brought back into control and harnessed for the well-being of society. Not for making money, but for making dignified livelihoods and for the betterment of community.
Sarah: It seems to me that there’s a tendency in any society for wealth to concentrate—if you have a little bit more than someone else, you can use that little bit of additional power to get even more than others. How do indigenous societies counter that?
Rebecca: An indigenous system is based on prosperity, creation, kinship, and a sense of enough-ness. It is designed for sharing. Potlatches, give-aways—these involve deliberately accumulating wealth as a person or as a family or as a clan for the sole purpose of giving it away. The potlatch or the give-away takes place at very specific times of life—birth, naming ceremonies, puberty. Often, if you receive a gift during a potlatch, you are then obligated, at some point in the future, to give a gift. That puts in motion a continual, ongoing requirement for redistribution.
Sarah: So someone with very high status can’t accumulate too much wealth?
Rebecca: You can’t get high status unless you give gifts. Here’s an example. We just got back from a visit with the James Bay Cree. I learned there that the very first ceremony that a baby undertakes is called a walk-away ceremony. James Bay is very cold and so the baby’s first days of life are spent inside the lodge.
Once the baby takes his first steps, they prepare for a walk-away ceremony. A hide is tanned, and an elaborate outfit is made for the baby to wear as he takes his first steps away from the lodge. The baby’s family and the clan gather outside. The baby walks away from the lodge as far as he can. Then everybody calls the baby back in. The child is carrying a bundle filled with food. He comes back into the circle of the family and the clan, and then goes from person to person sharing the food. By doing this, a child has learned to both become his own person and to come back to share.
Sarah: Sharing is hard when people fear that there isn’t enough to go around.
Rebecca: It is an obligation to share. So you design the economic system with an emphasis on sharing.
In modern U.S. society, individual property rights are treated as exclusive. If I own something, man, you can’t even put your foot on it. This ownership paradigm is about excluding people from resources because you’re afraid you’re going to run out.
Within an indigenous economy, the mere fact of your birth guarantees you usage rights through the clan system. That would be the equivalent, in the United States, of your birth granting you access to capital and credit—you would have usage rights to the economy because you were born.
You can create self-fulfilling scarcity if you focus, for example, on running out of fossil fuel. Within a “prosperity of creation” mindset, though, there’s wind energy and solar energy, and there’s the ability to create new kinds of energy that we haven’t even tapped yet. That way of thinking brings us into a relationship in which we create new responses to what we need.
Sarah: How could a “prosperity of creation” mindset work in a world where people don’t know one another outside their small circle of friends and family?
Rebecca: When we’ve seen a contemporary system that comes from a paradigm like the indigenous paradigm, it usually has a spiritual base. The Amish economy is much less cash-dependent, for example. They have a strong sense of community and a high quality of life. Their economy is highly productive, and there’s a lot of cooperation. That’s a very, very healthy economic system.
Sarah: People are fearful because the things that they thought they could count on—retirement, or a job, or the value of their house—turn out to be unreliable. How can we move away from a fear-based system at a time when people have the most reasons to be fearful?
Rebecca: This is where I think indigenous people really hold a key: In their economies, there is a general safety net for all. There is no homelessness or grinding poverty. There is a band of general affluence and well-being which no one falls below.
We keep going into this paradigm of scarcity because fear is good for the capitalistic system. If you want to drive consumption, you’ve got to be fear based.
But God is in the space and silence. That is where it’s sacred. You look up on a starry night, and you feel yourself unfold, and that silence is where God is.
When people are consumed with filling all their space with stuff, and all silence with noise, you lose that sacredness. And then they are driven with consumption, consumption, consumption. The shopping mall becomes the cathedral. There you have capitalism. Even though it might be really good for the bottom line, it’s not good for a society.
We have to go back to the understanding that some things are sacred and cannot be profitized. No one owns Mother Earth. And living, breathing creations cannot be thrown away, or “externalized.” We have to be willing to pay the full cost for everything we use.
We can do this—we can rebuild the system so we no longer allow unfair practices or inequity. There is no such thing as a value-neutral economy. It’s not about a financial recovery, it’s about an economic rebuilding, and first and foremost, it’s about a moral rebuilding.
Sarah: If you were advising someone whose local economy is falling apart what would you suggest they do?
Rebecca: Watch how you spend your money; apply your values to every dollar you spend.
Insist that corporations do not externalize their dirt, pollution, low wages.
Get involved with the socially responsible investment movement. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got.
Hold Congress accountable. Understand there’s not going to be a recovery of the Wall Street system. We need to let some of these institutions go bankrupt.
What makes scarcity self-fulfilling? Fear. The more you’re fearful, the more you go out and buy. And pretty soon you run out of money and go into debt, and pretty soon the planet runs out of natural resources and places to put all the garbage.
Maintain the stance of abundance through tough times and through good times by having a spiritual base and good values—by caring about something other than yourself. That’s how you maintain abundance.
Abundance comes not from stuff. In fact, stuff is an indication of non-abundance. Abundance is in the sacred; it’s in the connection of love. We will find abundance through hard times when we find each other.
By Sarah van Gelder, Rebecca Adamson. More on http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=3852
Imagine applying for a loan at a bank. Easy enough you may think, but wait. You have no job, no credit card history, no income, no education, and no assets. What are your chances of getting a loan? Not going to happen, or as Barbara, Australia’s most beloved bank manager would say: “Go away.”
That’s why the first time I learnt about microfinance a massive light bulb went on in my brain. Microfinance institutions (MFI) lend small amounts of money exclusively to poor people in the third world so that they can start or grow a business to help them get out of poverty.
The would-be entrepreneurs may use the money to start a bakery, buy livestock, supplies for a food stall, or make handicrafts. The business then gives them a livelihood so they can repay the loan and generate a long-term stable income.
So why microfinance and why should I care?
Statistics serve to highlight the gross imbalance of global economies and wealth distribution. Statistics like: almost half the world (over three billion people) live on less than US$2.50 a day*; and that the poorest 40% of the world’s population account for just 5 percent of global income*.
Often statistics fail to paint the picture for me – the figures being too big or too overwhelming to comprehend from the comforts of a first world living room.
That changes though whenever I go travelling and I get to meet the human faces behind a statistic. Like the time I met 12 year old Jyotika (pictured), who makes a living everyday in Goa, India selling bracelets to tourists on the beach. She’s never been to school, can’t read or write Hindi but speaks very good English, and even a little bit of French and German which she learns from the tourists. Jyotika finds her life on the beach “boring”, but like her four other siblings, must work to help the family.
One of the reasons why microfinance appeals to me is that it does more than increase a household’s income, but gives women and their children greater control of their life. In addition to poverty, disease or war, being born female is a double burden in some cultures. By providing women in poverty with loans and savings, microfinance is one way to empower women by giving them more control over household assets, more freedom, decision-making power and greater access to participate in public life.
The views on Microfinance – Pros and Cons
Bill Gates raised some important issues in a Smartplanet video in April 2010 that highlights the pros and cons of microfinance. He states that microfinance alone will not eradicate poverty, but “is an important element in letting poor people improve their condition.” He further explains that microfinance as a single strategy will not solve poverty but must be done alongside other strategies such as a savings plan, improved health care and female literacy to name a few.
Gates further states that perhaps the most measurable or ‘provable’ benefit of microfinance amongst women is in not the economic but rather the behavioural or social factors. It is the act of getting the women together as a group and getting them to act on issues like birth control that makes the work of microfinance worthwhile. Microfinance serves to be an important vehicle in which women can come together as a collective to discuss issues and be politically active when their needs are not met.
Gates has made some really interesting points and you can view the short video here
One of the things to keep in mind if you want to support the work of microfinance institutions is to be aware of bad microcredit, as not all MFIs or programs are the same.
Although microfinance can raise borrowers’ standard of living and help reduce poverty, it has been criticized in situations where money is used to support a person’s current consumption rather than to start or grow a business as a long term solution out of poverty. For example, some loans are used by entrepreneurs on general household expenses or even to purchase goods like a television etc.
An important issue or question to consider when choosing a MFI to support is whether they have a set of clearly defined measures of success, eg. Does the MFI measure the income growth of household over a period of time, quality of housing, school enrolment and improved nutrition/ health?
Why lend – the collective power of micro.
When I learnt about the pros and cons of microfinance it lead me to the question of why lend?
In the end I decided that the pros far outweighed the cons. Microfinance is simply one strategy and not the only strategy in which we can help alleviate the complex problem of poverty.
Most importantly, microfinance is a real way to enable women to improve their quality of life and the children they care for. I also believe that the ‘hand up not a hand out’ philosophy is a powerful way to bring positive social change to third world communities.
And finally, the reason why I lend is because it is so easy to stop watching from the sidelines and get involved. With a few clicks at the computer I can make a very small loan (e.g. $25) yet make a big impact with thousands of other people making small loans – the collective power of micro.
For example, Kiva is an organization that offers an online platform where you can lend US$25 to entrepreneurs or MFI’s from around the world. Once you have made your loan, the money is repaid directly back to your account over a period of time. You then have the choice of re-lending the money to another MFI or entrepreneur. It’s a real kick to watch your money work its way around the world – from India to Mongolia to Palestine. It’s addictive and you can learn more about Kiva here: www.kiva.org
10thousandgirl has partnered with a MFI called Opportunity International – find out more: http://www.opportunity.org.au/
Photo by Ida Ng
Ida Ng is a blog contributor for the 10thousandgirl project, and has worked in various communications and marketing roles. She learnt the hard way that her crazy spending habit was the only thing keeping her from her dreams.
Microfinance is the provision of financial services such as loans, savings, insurance and training to people living in poverty. It is one of the great success stories in the developing world in the last 30 years and is widely recognised as a just and sustainable solution in alleviating global poverty.
Here’s a great video created by our microfinance partners, Opportunity International.
Microfinance 101 – An Introduction, explains clearly how it works.
Contact us to find out more about how you can work with us in our microfinance partnership.
Publication: “Well Heeled” blog published online in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and other Fairfax publications.
Publication date: 10 March 2010
Journalist: Anneli Knight
“Melbourne’s Recital Hall was packed to full house last night to see a public lecture delivered by Nobel Prize winner and founder of the Bangladesh microfinance bank Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus. World Vision chief executive Tim Costello gave the first speech of the evening and said if there could be one magic bullet that might solve world poverty it would be to empower women…”