Empowering women through microloans in CameroonUser's  Maia Klaassen project in the category Civic initiative

I am currently in Cameroon, Africa, where we are structuring a local micro-loan project. Local NGO RUDEC has been giving out micro-loans to women since 2012. Most of them are in the amount of 50 euros with the final return payment deadline at 10 months. Women, who have little rights and social capital, mostly use the loans for micro-entrepreneurship, ie starting their own business or expanding an excisting one. For over a month now, I have been monitoring the project which has had 33 individual participants, 71 loan cycles and a 100% success rate with repaying the loan. I have written down, filmed and taken photos of women who all have different businesses and stories and are all exceptionally venturesome. There are plenty more women in the area who would use this opportunity to get the loan and do amazing things with it.

I want to have a 2-week fundraiser to raise 500 euros, using which I would involve 10 new women in the project. The donated capital will not disappear anywhere – the funds will be returned to a separate bank account of the NGO with an 10% interest and go on another cycle, reaching more participants and helping more women. I don’t see this as charity, but as a civil society initiative – I as an global citizen, currently in Cameroon, am pledging other global citizen so this project will expand and continue in a bigger volume long after I have left the area.

There is another side to this story. According to a 2012 study of the local University of Buea, only around 5% of the citizens of Cameroon have access to banking services. These loans not only enable starting or expanding a business for women who would otherwise have no access to capital, but also allows them to get acquianted with financial services as such. There are weekly group savings meetings, where the secretary, accountant, treasurer and president, all chosen by voting, perform their duties to record and collect every member’s weekly savings and encourage them to save even more.

This model has been known in development aid for decades as solidarity lending, in which the group’s that are formed take the loans together, save together and encourage each other. It also serves as extra insurance for the organization lending the money as the weekly savings will cover the costs if any member is late with a payment or decides to default. For the members, weekly savings mean that most of them will finish the loan cycle with a profit and can take home their extra savings, the result of which is empowering women in rural areas, who normally have a weak position in society, and a growth in confidence which can only result in having successfully grown their business, paid back the loan and saved some extra money. The positive emotion and clear benefit is the reason most of the members take the loan again.

In conclusion – this is not an emergency call. No one will die or starve if this money doesn't come in. The project itself will live on and slowly grow using the 10% interest rate anyway. This is just an amazing project, the benefits of which I have personally witnessed and highly support and therefore want to bring to others. The sustainability of the project has already been proven. PLEDGE TO EMPOWER THE WOMEN OF BELO! 
PS! The gifts will be arriving to Estonia with me end of October, when they'll be distributed. I am definitely open for negotiations to deliver international packages aswell, please contact me in advance!

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