Today marks 100 years since we first celebrated International Women’s Day. Remarkably, 100 years later, the world’s most prominent political and economic leaders are still calling for equitable investment in poor women around the world.
The UN Secretary General today said, “Only through women’s full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society,” and has in the past voiced a belief that “investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity and sustained growth. Yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that investing in women and girls is “smart. It pays off.”
To illustrate these calls to action, Oikocredit and its partners could offer a plethora of statistics to that investing in women is an important financial investment. For example, women make up 70% of the world’s poor. (World Economic Forum) Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the world’s food, but earn 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of its propert. (UNICEF) According to a report authored in 2007 by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, women reinvest on average 90% of their income into the well-being of their family, compared to the 30-40% men reinvest.
But instead of analyzing statistics, today is at least one day we should forget about statistics, and remember that each woman who constitutes over 2/3 of the world’s poor is a person; a mother; a sister; a daughter. They touch lives; they have touched our lives here at Oikocredit. Here are a few stories of the women who have touched our lives through the power of microfinance. Happy International Women’s Day.
Gbmamlé Lou Zamblé Philomène is a market vendor in the COCOVICO Market in Côte d’Ivoire. She sells tomatoes and other vegetables at this women’s cooperative market in Abidjan that began in 1993. The market is run by women, populated by women, and funded by Oikocredit. “When my husband lost his job after the political problems in 1993, our life became a nightmare,” says Gbmamlé. She was forced to assume the role as head of household and breadwinner for her large family. “I had to take the lead and decided to join the cooperative of food vendors Cocovico.” Over time, Gbmamlé earned enough money to not only put food on her family’s table, but she advanced her family’s well-being even further. “I started selling tomatoes in the coop’s market place at Angré and with what I earned we could send our son to school and build a house.” Cocovico is a cooperative of 200 women food crop vendors. In 2008 a new marketplace was built, benefiting 5,000 traders and offering a health center and foodstuffs to almost 10,000 families near their place of residence.
Julie Monge is a client of Oikocredit’s project partner in Kenya, Jitegemea Credit Scheme (JCS). The name means “Depend on Yourself.” Julie owns two shops and has been a member of JCS since 2007. She is diligently repaying her first loan and plans to use her second to expand her businesses. Julie is particularly interested in investing in new products for her business, which she says allows her to attract more clients. In addition to her improved business, Julie has used her increased profits to send her 3-year old daughter to school. This is an important step in the cycle of microfinance and women’s empowerment: with luck and hard work, Julie’s young daughter will herself be a successful, empowered woman like her mother. She too can invest in her community. Julie’s goal as a business woman is to combine her businesses to own one large beauty shop. For the future she hopes to have a big beauty shop.
Irina has been selling candy and baked goods in the market for four years. When her husband died in a tragic accident, she was left alone to support herself and her 16-year-old daughter. Her small market stall was the only source of income to support them. With the assistance of a small loan she took through Oikocredit’s project partner HOPE Ukraine, Irina’s business has successfully allowed for herself and her daughter to carry on comfortably. Irina’s inventory is perishable so, no matter what, she needs to re-stock every two days. Her microloans ensure that her market stall is always full. Irina works hard, invests in her business, and is not afraid to take risks when an opportunity comes along. Her turnover has reached up to $2000 a month. With her increased profits, last year Irina refurbished she and her daughter’s apartment. She dreams of opening a new sales outlet in the near future.