Empowering Women with Microcredit

Rajamma lives in Karnataka, India.  Before she received her first loan from The Bridge Foundation (TBF), she was doing housework in “upper-caste” homes so she could feed her daughters the leftover scraps of food. She became so desperate that she borrowed money from a rich landowner. Unable to repay him, she was forced to send her daughters to work in his home–as virtual slaves. Rajamma joined TBF’s local Self Help Group and took out a loan of Rs 7,000 (US$196) to purchase a milk cow. Within 10 months, she cleared the loan and released her daughters from their bond. She earns over Rs 1,200 (US$34) each month. With her savings she bought half an acre of land and has taken another loan to irrigate it for groundnut cultivation. Rajamma’s eldest daughter is learning tailoring while the younger girls are in school.

With visible pride, Rajamma says that TBF has helped her regain her dignity and self-worth. She is one of the most active members in the group and is accepted as an equal in her village.— Opportunity InternationalOverview

The Microcredit Summit Campaign was established in 1997 in response to the desperate need of hundreds of millions of women like Rajamma. The Campaign seeks to reach 100 million of the world’s poorest families, especially the women of those families, with credit for self-employment and other financial and business services by 2005. Over the last three years, 1,065 microcredit[1] institutions have reported the number of clients they are reaching to the Campaign, 512 of them reporting in the last five months. This document assesses the Campaign’s contribution to the objectives of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. From self-reported data, we find that these 1,065 institutions are reaching 13.8 million poorest clients[2], 10.3 million or 75 percent of whom are women. At the time of the 1997 Microcredit Summit it was estimated that eight million poorest clients were being reached. That estimate was supported in a Campaign survey done the following year. The most recent survey indicates an increase of more than 6 million poorest clients being reached over a two year period[3] (January 1, 1998 to December 31, 1999), an increase of 82 percent. Of the 512 programs reporting data that covers January 1, 1999 to December 31, 1999, the growth in the number of poorest women being reached over the last year is 1.4 million, an increase of 16 percent. While this progress is impressive, the Campaign still has a long way to go to fulfill its mission over the next six years.

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