International Women’s Day 2014

On this International Women’s Day, we look back and reflect on different ways to empower women and girls.

Beyond the equal opportunity and equal pay… which (frankly) Canada still struggles with… we look beyond our borders, and see that, globally, women in third world countries often fight for opportunities, that the male-controlled society take away.

One example would be the “fight” for women in some Middle Eastern countries, to have a level of autonomy… to be able to drive, or go to a doctor, without the permission of a male household member or guardian.

Another more personal example came to us many years ago, through our involvement with PLAN Canada.  We sponsored Monique, a young girl in Burkina Faso… a small, impoverished country in Africa that, according to many sources, is one of the 25 poorest countries on the planet.  We supported her family with a monthly cheque, and exchanged letters, photos and drawings.  When we got letters, once or twice a year, we heard, through the case worker and various translators, how the family was prospering, how they had been able to purchase a goat… and diversify their crops.  The money they received was helping the whole family to do well, and  Monique was approaching the age when she would start attending school. 

Later, we got news that she was doing well in school, and she hoped, that when she was older, she would learn to type… and had dreams of becoming a secretary.

Then we got a letter, saying that our sponsorship of Monique was being transferred to another child, as an important part of the contract with Monique’s family had been voided.  She had been taken out of school by her Father, who said that it was a waste of time for a girl to be in school, and she should be at home working on the family farm.  There was no need for a girl to have an education… or to look beyond the gate of their family farm.

It is over a decade later, and I still feel the same anger of injustice, that a young girl’s potential was cut short… because she was lesser.

…Because she was inferior.

…Because she was a girl.

We thought… there must be a better way to influence and support opportunities for women and girls… and we found Kiva… an organization that supports and provides funding to entrepreneurs in North America and around the globe.

Kiva is an organization that helps entrepreneurs who have sound business plans, connect with “lenders”, who support them with $25 microloans.

Once the business is set up and running, the business owner has to pay back the interest-free loan… and the lender can then either re-lend it, or if they wish, get the money back.

At this time, (since 2005) there have been:

  • 1,084,198 Kiva lenders
  • $537,870,475 in loans
  • 98.97% repayment rate

For those wanting a more comprehensive overview of Kiva, here is a video:

With Kiva, you can select what Country you loan to… what industry sector you want to support… and whether the entrepreneur is male or female… and what the exact details of that business are.

So far, we have supported 196 women, who are business owners, providing them with almost $5000 in funding, to help them get their businesses started, or re-positioned.  Other than the money that is currently on loan, every penny has been paid back.

Rudina in Albania

We aren’t giving them a hand out… we’re giving them a hand up.

And although in some countries the women are not allowed to have their pictures taken for their Kiva profiles… they are right in the centre of their communities, showing that they are not lesser, or inferior… but every bit as strong and powerful.

So, on this International Women’s Day, we’d like to invite you to join us on Kiva, and make a difference. 

Help create change in someone’s world… and watch the ripples spread out from there.

http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/hautenote

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