Many women living in poverty in Ethiopia, India and Kenya, are excluded from government lending schemes, or face prejudice in banking systems. ActionAid's microcredit schemes are working to help these women form successful businesses.
Women borrow money from the micro-credit schemes to establish businesses, allowing them independence and the ability to provide for themselves and their families well into the future.
"Micro-credit can mean women have a chance at running their own businesses, which not only improves their economic circumstances but also their status in society," Letekidan Berhane of ActionAid, explains. "More resources in the hands of women means better health and education for the whole family as women are likely to spend the money on schools and medicines for their children."
The schemes join those who have few or no opportunities into co-operatives, where they can borrow money and recieve training. ActionAid offers advice to women involved in the schemes on everything from business management and leadership to education on HIV/AIDS and gender issues.
One example of the micro-credit scheme's success is in Adma, (formerly Nazareth), Ethiopia, where the formation of a small group in 1999 has led to a 1,114 strong group of women owning a successful shopping mall, which provides a regular and secure income for members.
Initially ActionAid, in partnership with local organisation Vision Organisation for Community Development, set up five saving and credit cooperatives for 400 local women, with borrowing capacity of just 9,890 birr, approximately £625. The five co-operatives then joined up with seven others and formed a union, the Abdi Gudina (meaning big vision) Adama Savings and Credit Cooperatives Union. The union increased the capital of the women to around 1.7 million birr, approximately £107,660 and gave them the opportunity to buy and set up shopping centre worth over 15 million birr, £961,000.
“Without this micro-credit scheme in Ethiopia these women would not have been able to own businesses or get a regular income," Letekidan Berhane says. "This has given them a fantastic opportunity to improve their lives and be able to make better lives for their children. These women could still be living in extreme poverty, and in some cases, unable to afford food or regular shelter. Instead, they are strong, independent businesswomen."