Last week, Michael and I led a prayer time, focusing on the issue of gender inequality, particularly in the developing world. This post is the second in a three-part series in which we hope to highlight some of the issues facing women throughout the world, and how the body of Christ can be praying and acting towards solutions. Check out our first post from last week, which highlighted the issue of girls’ education.
Half the Sky outlines some harrowing statistics concerning spending in the developing world. In many households across the world, men are the sole income-earners, and have complete control over spending. It is found that “the poorest families in the world typically spend approximately ten times as much (20 percent of their income on average) on a combination of alcohol, prostitutes, candy, sugary drinks, and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children.” When women control the purse-strings, however, “family money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine, and housing, and consequently children are healthier.”
So how do we shift from men controlling the money in families to women having a say in spending? One answer is through economic opportunities for women. When women have the opportunity to earn an income, their perceived value in the household increases, and they begin to have more control over spending, meaning that their children are likely to be healthier, and education becomes more feasible. One way to encourage economic opportunities for women is through micro-financing. Micro-financing involves individuals making small loans to those in the developing world. These loans go directly into the supplies needed for a woman (or a man) to start a business, or expand an already existing business. The increase in income that results from the loan allows the business woman (or man) to pay back the loan quickly.
One organization that is well-known for providing micro-financing opportunities for those in the developing world is Kiva. The following video was put together by Kiva to explain micro-financing:
Here are a few ways you can pray into the issue of economic opportunities for women:
- Pray that the body of Christ would see the advantages of being involved in micro-financing, rather than viewing it as a secular solution to poverty.
- Pray that God would open the eyes of believers around the world to recognize that women can be income-providers and can contribute to society.
- Pray for creative business opportunities for women.
Getting involved in micro-financing is easy, and it’s not expensive. Kiva allows lenders to give as little as $25 to the recipient of their choice. You can check out Kiva’s website and determine who you would like to loan to – you can specifically select which country, which gender, and even which field of business you would like to support. Though it is not entirely risk free, Kiva has an excellent track record – 98.96% borrowers have repaid their loans. Once your loan has been returned, you can choose to invest that money in a different entrepreneur, or you can withdraw it. Michael and I have lent $25 to a young woman in Peru, joining a team of lenders so that she can maintain her taxi and expand her business. When this entrepreneur pays back the loan, we look forward to the opportunity to lend that $25 to another woman, investing in her life, the life of her family, and her community.
Here’s a few action points to consider in the area of economic opportunities for women:
- Consider making a micro-finance loan through an organization such as Kiva.
- Introduce your church/small-group to micro-financing as a channel for charitable giving.
- Consider supporting business-women in the developing world by purchasing items that are hand-crafted by women in poor nations. Quite often, these reputable business opportunities/collectives give women the chance to stay off the streets, where they are susceptible to prostitution, trafficking, and other horrors. You can purchase fairly-made items, handcrafted by women and men, at Ten Thousand Villages. “Ten Thousand Villages creates opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.”