In a world full of immense suffering, many see it as their job to try to alleviate it. In a number of such instances, governments take it upon themselves to try to solve the crises. However, their actions are not always effective. So, there is still a considerable market for private charities and companies to aid the poorest of the poor. Thus, the microfinance industry came to be.
What is Microfinance?
Microfinance is an economic practice where startups lend small amounts of money to small business owners to help them become more profitable. Though more of the poor are getting bank accounts, there are still many in third world countries without access. Moreover, even some areas with a bank do not allow women to open accounts, as many third world countries have yet to reach gender equality.
This poor reality is an iron chain on social mobility. Without basic access to lending and borrowing, it can be very hard for a poor family to start a small business and begin to increase their standard of living. Despite this, there is still hope for them, as microfinance is beginning to turn the tides.
A Method of Proven Success
SHARE Micro Finance Limited, a company based in India, lends women small amounts of money so that they may further their businesses. Each client receives only one payment equal to $50 to $100 in USD. The money may go towards buying them equipment to transport products. The women may also use it to begin moving their operations online.
So, what have been the results? A staggering 77% of these women have seen income increases. Over a third have risen their incomes enough to no longer be living in poverty. With these results, SHARE has become India’s largest microfinance industry, serving over 200,000 people.
SHARE is not alone in its success. Countless other stories throughout the developing world show similar increases. From Kenya to Colombia to Pakistan, microfinance is accelerating the path of families away from poverty.
A Home-building Industry
In Kenya, 36% of people live below the poverty line. Nairobi alone is home to a quarter of a million people without a roof over their heads. Clearly, there is an urgent need for these people to have more adequate housing. Once again, microfinance may be the clear answer.
Sandra Pietro, global director of operations and financial inclusion at Habitat for Humanity, believes microfinance is a clear way forward to improve housing access. She believes that without it, “It could take up to two generations for people to build their home incrementally”. In areas where life expectancy is low, this means they will never reap the benefit of decades of hard work.
With microfinance, women in particular are able to access loans to build their homes. With loans as little as $50 USD, these women are able to increase their quality of life. After giving three guarantors, they can obtain the deed to their new property.
This is only the first step to a long process, but without the spark, no fire is possible. Current banks rarely serve the poor, and thus, they need another option. Microfinance, for a growing number of poor men and women, is that option.
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