There is no Yellow Brick Road

I’m not sure what I thought micro-finance would be like. Maybe after a small loan a woman wakes up the next day and presto!, finds a thriving business that enables her to build a brand new house and send her kids to good schools. I suspect most of the criticism of micro-credit comes from notions like this.

The truth is there is no yellow brick road out of poverty. Instead we’ve watched as Fonkoze provides companion services with their financial ones. Not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because they know that each client is a real human being with many intertwined challenges.

We shot our group of Solid Women at education classes (a few of them can’t read, but decided to skip the literacy module in favor of the business module). There was a vitamin distribution, where children got essential vitamins. And even micro-insurance that helped women deal with the inevitable frailty of their businesses.

And that’s the beauty of Fonkoze… they’ve created a network where any services that might benefit clients can be implemented and integrated with micro-finance. Most importantly I think the women feel that Fonkoze isn’t just a piggy bank, I think they take their commitment to the program pretty seriously. One women we met was in her 60’s and just starting literacy classes. When we asked why she smiled and said simply “I didn’t want to die without knowing how to read.”

This is slow work… often without fireworks. But these women are moving.


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