Micro-Credit’s Dirty Little Secret

Ryan Cummings | KF 17 | Liberia

Cynthia and Maroline with their Bangladeshi host

All too often, when people talk about the positive impact of micro-credit, they focus exclusively on borrowers. While they are obviously a significant beneficiary of micro-credit, I have a dirty little secret for you: many other people benefit from micro-credit too.

There is an entirely different group of people who are having their lives changed for the better by the micro-credit movement. Who am I talking about? Let me introduce to you Cynthia and Maroline, two Liberians working for microfinance institution BRAC in northern Monrovia, Liberia.  BRAC employs more than 300 staff members. In fact, BRAC is one of the fastest growing companies in Liberia – and it’s in the top 15 largest employers.

Cynthia and Maroline are employed at the Caldwell BRAC branch and the Nimba BRAC branch, respectively. BRAC’s micro-credit operations have impacted their lives in several ways.  First, they are gainfully and meaningfully employed in a country that has an 85% unemployment rate. With a salary 18 times higher than the gross national income per capita, these woman help provide a high quality of life for their families.

How do they spend their money?  Buying permanent housing, medical care, nutritious food for the table, and education for their children. These expenditures have strong ripple effects in their local economies too.  On top of that, as breadwinners, these women set a standard of gender equality in their homes for their children to see and value.

Second, BRAC provides invaluable leadership training. Liberia is decimated by war, leaving no formal management resources for businesspeople. BRAC has introduced  professional management structures, systems, and training to its operations in Liberia.

Cynthia and Maroline have worked at BRAC for several years, and have made their way up the ladder to take on managerial roles. Throughout this process, BRAC has provided them with training, support, systems, and opportunities to strengthen leadership in the workplace.

Lastly, BRAC offers its employees the opportunity to travel and receive additional training abroad. Cynthia and Maroline have just returned from a global micro-credit training summit in Bangladesh. To be able to travel internationally is a rare and invaluable opportunity.

Cynthia and Maroline at the Global Learning Meeting in Bangladesh

While they were nervous about their first ever airplane ride, they relished the chance to meet colleagues from around the world, and brought back many new ideas to help build the micro-credit industry in Liberia.

So although lending money to borrowers is the impetus for Kiva’s work, it shouldn’t be a secret that, in fact, micro-credit institutions have a much broader impact than just the clients they serve!

Ryan Cummings is a Kiva Fellow working closely with BRAC in Monrovia, Liberia.

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