Believe in Sheela

We say, Sisters are doin’ it for themselves, standin’ on their own two feet~Annie Lennox

Vaanavil Trust Groupsmall

I want you to believe in Sheela.  She is  a leader of Opportunity International’s Baba Trust Group meeting in Chennai, India. Nineteen women have joined together to repay loans, learn accounting skills and socialize They are doin it for themselves.

One powerful way that women are doing it for themselves and helping to make sure their dreams come true is by starting  businesses.  Businesses that they own. You guys  already know that  microfinance organizations make it a priority to serve the particular needs of women, since a unbelievable 70 percent of all those living in extreme poverty are female. Women are often excluded from education, the workplace, owning property and equal participation in politics. They produce one half of the world’s food, but own just one percent of its farmland. Nearly 85 percent of Opportunity’s loan clients are women.

We know what  happens when women have access to  financial and human capital – family income rises. Children go to school. Health improves. Housing is improved. Communities are transformed. Generations are changed.

Trust Groups all over the world are transforming communities by providing both support and credit.

Trust Group? What’s a Trust Group? Its a  typical first point of entry for local women, The Trust Group brings together 10 to 30 entrepreneurs who elect leaders, receive training and pledge to guarantee each other’s loans. Because the group guarantee replaces the need for collateral, credit becomes available to those previously locked out from formal financial services.

Opportunity International Trust Groups make it possible for women improve their lives and make a difference in their community. Weekly meetings are the hallmark of the Trust Group model. Women supporting women. As they receive training in business practices, leadership skills and health care issues, members develop close alliances along with new skills.With a high repayment rate, they are an effective grassroots approach to tackling poverty. While building up local economies, these close-knit groups also build up women and create  amazing community leaders like Sheela. Women gain status. Communities are transformed.

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The World Bank says that 500 MILLION  people living in poverty could benefit from a small business loan and only one-third of the world’s population has access to any kind of bank account.   A loan as small as $25 can change a life. Let me say that again. CAN. CHANGE. A. LIFE. I am not exaggerating. Let’s look at the numbers:

Total amount US spends on Christmas each year: $450 billion or 16 years worth of food, water, and education for the world. That is a lot of money. This year lets commit to purchasing one less “thing” and invest in one more woman.

So what can you do to help?

You can help fund the loan of an entrepreneur.

OptINnow™ is a new initiative from Opportunity International that enables you to “opt in” and become part of a global movement to transform the lives of entrepreneurs throughout the developing world –At OptINnow.org, you can look through client profiles and personally select an entrepreneur whose loan they wish to fund. Your gift goes directly to the people you designate, helping them to build businesses that support their families, create jobs for neighbors and end the cycle of poverty. As the loan is paid back, the money is loaned again and again, changing many lives for years to come. With donations as low as $25, even school children can become involved in this movement to end poverty faster.

I believe in Sheela.  I believe in her commitment, her passion, her vision, her children.  I also believe in all of the un-named women around the world living in extreme poverty. They want to feed their children. They want to live in safe, decent shelter. They want to send their kids to school everyday. They want access and they want status. Access to human and financial capital allows that to happen.

When women improve their circumstances, they also improve the lives of their children and their grandchildren. Writer Jan Richardson says  that  “What we choose changes us.” I choose to invest in a woman and give her more options for her future. Opportunity and capital is a winning combination.

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