When I was a student in Russia many years ago, International Women’s Day was definitely a thing. At the time it meant that women were given the day off from household chores and men bought them flowers. Internationally though, it still wasn’t really a thing. Fortunately, that has changed and now 8th March is celebrated worldwide for what it truly stands for – a day to acknowledge the vital contribution that women make to the world continuing to turn on its axis. Of course, it’s also the day that the comedian and broadcaster Richard Herring spends on Twitter responding to the many thousands of tweets, mostly from men, asking when International Men’s Day is. It’s 19th November, in case you didn’t know.
Kiva is an online alternative funding platform which aims to match hundreds of thousands of funders around the world to people in need of financing for their particular project. I became involved in Kiva in 2012 after a friend posted on Facebook that she had funded someone. My ‘accounts’ ears pricked up at the thought of lending some random person somewhere in the world some of my own money, but once I looked deeper into the stats of the lending partners for the microloans, I was astonished at the repayment rates. I understand loans are fully repaid in 96% of cases. This is astonishing and is envied by lenders around the world. All the information about the lending partner is available with each loan so you can make an educated decision about whether you are happy to loan through that particular lending partner.
I made a decision quite quickly that I was going to lend mainly to women. My reasoning was that in a lot of countries, especially the Middle East where I have a particular affinity because I was born there, women have neither the same rights or access to funding, so for many, an organisation like Kiva is their only hope. Kiva knows this, and find that marketing campaigns for loans for women always work well around International Women’s Day. You can find details of their 2018 campaign here and a short video about their campaign to #pressforprogress here.
I have now lent money to 15 women and 1 man, for a variety of causes, predominantly in the Middle East. I have even re-loaned money to a couple of women. Some want to start or expand their own business, some want to fit energy saving equipment to their houses, some are trying to fund their education, and recently Kiva added a new option, which is to help refugees aiming to reconnect with family members. It’s a bit counter-intuitive because you wonder how they are going to repay the loan, but with the exception of one loan which defaulted (Kiva was very communicative about this, it will happen from time to time) every other loan has been repaid either on time or early. I like that I can help people and make a difference to their lives for only US$25. I helped someone in the Gaza Strip to repair their flat after the bombings just a few years ago. I can’t imagine how it must feel knowing that people all around the world are willing to part with their own money to help you. I guess empowering, especially for women.
I have encouraged family and friends to get involved too, and one member of my family has lent to well over 20 people (again, mainly women) in just a couple of years.
The money comes back into your account, and then you can choose to re-invest or withdraw it. It’s so low risk. I currently have US$22 in my account so for just a couple of pounds more, I can help someone else. So Sidra in Pakistan, Happy International Women’s Day, and good luck with your groceries business.
You can read more about Kiva and its work in Ethos Issue 5, or online here.