It is a bit of a strange site to see German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Brazilian flags hanging from balconies and waving from car antennas all over Lebanon. But this is the excitement that is brewing in Lebanon as it prepares for the 2010 World Cup. Café owners all over Beirut are investing in bigger, better televisions and stocking up on water pipe tobacco and food goods that will surely be demanded by their...Continue Reading >>
Fellows Blog Posts by Nishita
Strong ties to local communities not only allow microfinance institutions to build enduring relationships with borrowers, but also to invest in socially-driven community projects. In many cases, the non-financial services an organization provides can be as valuable as the microcredit it offers. Kiva’s Lebanon partner, Al Majmoua, is an excellent example of how the resources and commitment of a microfinance institution can positively impact and empower an extremely important segment of the population—young people or “il shabab” in Arabic.
Al Majmoua was originally started by Save the...Continue Reading >>
Generally when I escape to the Beirut Corniche to go running, I try to avoid making contact with the young lovers sharing a romantic moment in their parked cars. However, on this particular day I could not help but get involved as I saw a brawny man repeatedly and violently beating the crying veiled woman sitting in his car. She tried to get out. He locked the door. She was hunched next to the window trembling in fear pleading him to stop. He told her to shut up.
...Continue Reading >>
As I strolled casually down this major city street I savored the sweet smells of spices as I walked by small grocery shops, admired the dangling gold earrings and embroidered “saris” of women giggling as they strutted down the sidewalk, and edged closer than I normally would to passersby hoping to catch a few phrases in my mother tongue of Bengali. This would seem like a typical day for a Kiva Fellow cruising the crowded streets of Kolkata...Continue Reading >>
The portrayal of Arab women in the media often leads to the common perception of Middle Eastern women as socially and professionally restricted, and often considered to be second-class citizens. In fact my first-hand experience has proven these stereotypes to be true on several occasions. However, when discussing the elusive “Middle East” region, it is important to acknowledge the varying levels of women’s rights and engagement across...Continue Reading >>
The global economic crisis presented additional challenges to microfinance institutions around the world. Yet, Kiva partner, Ameen s.a.l. in Lebanon managed to keep its place in the MIX Global 100 Ranking * and impressively, moved up the rankings from #87 in 2008 to #17 in 2009. I was fortunate to spend a few minutes with the young and charismatic General Manager of Ameen, Mr. Ziad Halaby, to learn more about Ameen’s organizational strategy and to hear his thoughts on why Ameen has remained a top performer in Lebanon and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
...Continue Reading >>
In my last blog entry, I commented on the international service workers in Lebanon. As these workers are often from underdeveloped countries (relative to Lebanon), this group represents a fascinating social dynamic in the country. Also interesting is that a sizeable chunk of the Lebanese population is engaged in work abroad, often in African countries. However unlike the thousands of Egyptians that work in manual labor or service jobs in countries like Jordan or the United Arab Emirates (both places I have lived and worked), many of the Lebanese that work in African countries are there as...Continue Reading >>
Lebanon is aesthetically beautiful with its lush greenery and seemingly endless miles of coastline flirting with the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. In a region known for its vast deserts, Lebanon is certainly a strange exception. Living in ultra modern Beirut, it is easy to forget that the country has been plagued by war for generations. With its bustling cafes, gorgeous boardwalk (the “Corniche”) filled...Continue Reading >>
When I compare Lebanon to other countries in the region, it stands out on many levels—its religious diversity, economic resilience in the face of political conflict and war, vibrant and cosmopolitan urban life, and its varied approaches to microfinance. I have the great fortune to work with both of Kiva’s Lebanon field partners—Ameen s.a.l. and Al Majmoua—during my Kiva fellowship. Both organizations are comparable in size and in terms of share in the Lebanese market, yet each provides a unique and distinct approach to microfinance. I still have much to learn about both organizations, but...Continue Reading >>