Learn How Women's Empowerment Works

Women's Empowerment partners with local, nonprofit microfinance organizations - banks for the poor - that share our vision, values and mission. Our partners are essential to our success, providing business loans and services that enable very poor women to create sustainable livelihoods. We work with three local organizations in the poor countries of Uganda, Honduras and Mexico. All are sensitive to the needs and context of local communities in which they work.

In San Diego, WE's home, we also partner with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to provide business services, grants and loans to refugee and other low-income women through the WE Center for STAR (Support, Training and Assistance for Refugee) Women. IRC San Diego has been a leader in microfinance lending and economic development for refugees for more than a decade.  With PCI, a nonprofit headquartered in San Diego, WE helped established village savings groups in San Diego that help low-income women save together and create businesses.

All our partners, past and present, have deep experience in poverty alleviation, microfinance, women's empowerment and local community development issues and have been carefully selected by WE. Staff and loan officers speak the local language, are familiar with local customs and have created a trusted presence in the villages in which they work.

With the resources WE provides, our international partners are able to increase funds available for microfinance loans and expand the number of poor women reached. For the STAR Center in San Diego, WE provides salary support for the business counselor. WE also serves as a resource to our partners on issues of best practices and trends in microfinance and poverty assessment tools.

WE regularly visits our local and international partners, providing our supporters the opportunity to meet with clients and observe microfinance in action firsthand. You are invited to join us.

Microfinance programs offer poor people access to basic financial services, such as micro-loans, savings, training and micro-insurance, and is widely recognized as a just and sustainable solution to alleviating global poverty.

Small loans - often less than $100 - are provided to poor women to start or expand businesses. Unlike commercial loans, no collateral is required. Instead, women borrowers form themselves into groups of five, with each member guaranteeing the others' loans. This "social collateral" - and peer pressure within the group - lead to amazingly high repayment rates. Repayment rates in WE's microfinance programs are significantly higher than student loan and credit card debt in the United States.

"As more cash and assets get into the hands of women, more of these earnings get into the mouths, medicine and schoolbooks of their children, while at the same time increasing women's bargaining position and power in the family and community; and their ability to act against violence in the home and in the world. There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole - women and men alike - than the one which involves women as central players."
-- Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

Women's Empowerment is committed to serving women in poverty and being a catalyst for change in their lives. The greater burden of poverty falls on the shoulders of women.  Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty globally, 70 percent are women. While women perform more than 60 percent of the world's work and produce

WE has developed these criteria that guide our selection of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and our reviews of current partners' programs.

Summary of Most Important Criteria

  • The MFI targets very poor women.
  • WE's partnership with and financial contributions to the MFI will make a significant impact.
  • There is strong potential for good communications and relationships between the women of WE and the women of the MFI.

"Poverty is not created by the poor. It is created by the structures of society and the policies pursued by society. Change the structure as we are doing in Bangladesh, and you will see that the poor change their own lives. Grameen's experience demonstrates that, given the support of financial capital, however small, the poor are fully capable of improving their lives."
--Muhammad Yunus, founder the Grameen Bank

Traditional banks have long considered poor people to be poor clients. The poor's lack of collateral often prevents them from qualifying for bank loans and other financial services many of us take for granted.

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