“These women may not know how to read, but they know how to use the calculator.”
This quote is from a Nepalese non profit organization worker. The quote speaks of empowerment: with just a small micro loan a woman´s world can change which then radiates to the people around her. Poverty is replaced with dignity and control of one´s own life.
We met many women who had experienced this in February when visiting Nepal as a part of Women’s Bank Skills Donation program. We were an international group of five business women, invited to consult local business women in an International Women’s Trade Expo in Kathmandu.
While there we visited a women´s cooperative who gives out microloans, called Shree Devi Women Saving & Credit Co-operative Ltd in Lalitpur, a village only 26 kilometers from Kathmandu. It took almost 3 hours to get there by car – because of mountains and badly beaten roads from the earthquake two years ago.
This co-operation, funded by Women’s Bank, has already 572 members, covering 80% of all the women in the village. The basic idea of the Women’s Bank is that the capital and the interest stays in the Community, in the Co-operative. The capital does not come back. Instead, the local women of each cooperative decide their own rules, own interest rates, and give out the loans accordingly. The loans give the women the possibility to start or strengthen their own business and get support from a peer group of women in similar positions.
The results in the village were amazing. The collective has started to give out support to new mothers with the interest income the cooperative has received from the loans. They have figured out a procedure to stop domestic violence. They also have come up with a savings deposit system for the villagers. This all in addition to the main task of each women´s bank cooperative: give hope and opportunity to hundreds of women to change their destiny.
A small donation can trigger enormous change. Women hold the future in their hands.