Empowering Women With Microfinance: From Oxford, England to Lima, Peru
Friday, April 15, 2011
One week ago, I was on stage for the opening plenary of the Skoll World Forum in the scholarly, well-ordered university town of Oxford, England. Today, I am in the ramshackle home of an able, but very poor, businesswoman in the impoverished, raggedy outskirts of Lima, Peru.
The Skoll World Forum is the preeminent global gathering of social entrepreneurs. Over 1,200 of the smartest, most dedicated change agents in the world attend; on your behalf, they are working for social and economic justice.
Finca Peru, a microfinance institution, manages and invests in 926 “village banks,” each comprised of a dozen or so women who gather weekly to manage their finances, learn business tricks, study accounting and sales techniques, contribute to their savings, buy life insurance and support each other. In common, they each have tiny business loans, called microloans. On our behalf, they too are working for social and economic justice.
I am in Peru with a MicroCredit Enterprises study mission to learn how very poor women are improving the lives of their families. The key ingredients: business smarts, determination and a small business loan.
One woman proudly reported to us that she used her microloan to start a neighborhood gas propane distributorship (doubtless too a large word for such a small enterprise) which she runs out of her house. When she noticed that customers waited in line to pick up their gas canisters, she added a line of cosmetics which she sells from a catalog. Here is the on-the-ground, entrepreneurial spirit which drives the Skoll World Forum.