International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s -- with the first “National Women’s Day” held in the United States in 1909, before women even had the right to vote.
Today, it's become an official holiday in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Laos, Mongolia, Montenegro, Russia, Tajikistan, Vietnam, and Zambia -- just to name a few. In many of these countries, IWD is celebrated like Mother’s Day and children give small gifts to their mothers or grandmothers.
While women have undoubtedly made huge strides since the first celebration of a “Women’s Day” -- unfortunately, we are still far from achieving perfect equality. In the United States, women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work nor are they proportionately represented in politics.
On a global scale, women consistently receive less access to education and health care. Not to mention there are still many places where women do not have rights to their own bodies and are victims of regular domestic violence.
But this doesn't have to be the case. Women are powerful in ways beyond measure and great strides are being made.
Did you know that on average, women invest 80% of their income in their families? This means that not only does a loan help a woman, but her entire family as well. This means a small loan could ultimately enable her kids to go to school, or get proper health care.
At Kiva, we strongly believe that microfinance is an invaluable tool to empower women and change their place in society. When you loan to a woman, you not only empower her economically, you help her model gender equality for future generations.
If a daughter grows up in a home where her mother is respected and justly compensated for her work, her future actions and mindset will be significantly different than if her mother worked grueling hours for unequal pay and had no influence in family decisions. Similarly, if a son is brought up by a mother who contributes equally to family income, he will likely show more respect for women in his own actions. This is how women's empowerment happens -- through small changes passed from generation to generation.
COMIXMUL is one particular Kiva field partner making strides to empower women -- focusing exclusively on women borrowers in rural Honduras. Now with over 26,000 members, COMIXMUL provides women with much more than just financial products, including extensive educational programs that allow them to get a leg up on growing their business, and medical services that often times are these women’s only option for quality healthcare.
Nokeira is a single 29 year-old woman who had to drop out after primary school due to a lack of resources. She received a $625 Kiva loan through COMIXMUL to buy fertilizer, manure, and fumigation pumps to maintain healthy coffee crops on the land left to her from her father.
The Mahashakti Foundation is another one of Kiva’s partners that works exclusively with women in India’s low-income state of Odisha. There, 91% of the population lives in villages and 39% live in tribal communities where the average income is less than $1 per day. Mahashakti also provides clients with health and life micro-insurance, health care options, livelihood development services, water and sanitation services, and food security programs for a holistic approach to well-being.
A women's borrower group speaking with a Mahashakti loan officer.
We are so proud to work with partners who not only provide loans, but also invaluable training and even healthcare that will radically change borrowers’ quality of life.
If you aren't already convinced of the opportunities microfinance provides women -- here is one of our favorite and most inspiring stories:
Angela is a 30-year-old divorced mother of two living in Zambia. In July 2011, she received a $5,000 loan from Kiva partner Zoona to open her own mobile money transactions kiosk. Not only has she already paid back her loan, but the demand for her service was so high that she was able to create a job and open a second teller window at her kiosk. Angela’s increased income from her new business also allowed her to bring her children back to live with her (they had been living with her parents 12 hours away). She also had extra capital to build a roof over her kiosk so her customers wouldn't have to stand out in the sun while waiting in line.
Angela outside her Zoona kiosk.
It's stories like Angela’s that remind us why microfinance is so important for women. All it took was a $5,000 loan, and not only was she able to pay it back, but she has already further grown her business and improved her whole family's quality of life.
Of the 511,000 loans we've processed on Kiva, 74.6% of them have been to women borrowers. To encourage your International Women's Day celebration, we are currently offering a $25 FREE TRIAL loan to all new Kiva users when you loan to a woman. Click here to redeem your free trial.
If you aren't a new user, lend just $25 to a woman borrower. When you invest in her potential, she will do the rest.
Happy International Women's Day from all of us at Kiva!