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Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan


Case Study Project 2 Women’s Rhetoric 4376 Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan

In the grand scheme of things, women are often the first affected when their community experiences economic difficulty. In poverty stricken neighborhoods, the responsibility of finding food and clothing often falls to the women, in addition to the duty of earning a little extra to aid in getting the family through the day. Typically, men leave home in hopes of finding a better job elsewhere and often do not return, leaving the woman with her heavy responsibilities and no dignified way out. Women around the world have observed the need and answered the desperate call for help from women in poverty through the practice of micro-finance. In this study, we will examine the influence of women on behalf of women by discussing four issues. First, we feel it is important to understand the unique scope and affects of poverty on women. Second, the first responders to the casualties of poverty are most often women who seek not simply to give a hand-out, but rather a hand-up that encourages empowerment and enables women to conquer their circumstances. Third, it is vital to recognize that the practice of microfinance encompasses several key concepts which are principally found in women’s rhetoric. Finally, we observed the impact that this cycle in particular has on the community as a whole. Ripple effects are common in a world as increasingly connected as ours. Yet the ripples created by women for women are almost too large to be ignored. Through the tool of microfinance, women have managed to empower other women in developing countries, giving them the means necessary to rise above the debilitating circumstances society and poverty have conspired to place them in; instead, they emerge as noble heiresses of independence, wisdom, and compassion.

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Case Study Project 2 Women’s Rhetoric 4376 Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan

Around the world, poverty is not unusual – notably for women. To that point, the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995 estimated that there were more than 1 billion people in poverty, the great majority of who were women. The conference’s studies point out that over the past decade or more the number of women falling into poverty has increased disproportionately to the number of men, particularly in the developing world. Poverty places additional handicaps on women in developing countries. Not only are they responsible for the average household duties, but have no hope of ever breaking an endless cycle of hand-to-mouth practices. Education is a luxury item for many children and a rarity for young girls. Women are left repeating the actions of their mothers as they attempt to stay afloat in the devastating flood of impoverished surroundings. In its effort to combat poverty the U.N. declared 2005 as the International Year of Microcredit, and the microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus won the Noble Peace Prize in 2006. In the developing world, institutional and individual investments in microfinance more than double between 2004 to 2006, to $4.4 billion, and the total volume of loans made has risen to $25 billion, according to Deutsche Bank. Because these loans were very small, generally about $200 to $500, a greater number of people, in most cases women, are benefited. Women are most keenly aware of the financial straits of other women in developing countries. Microfinance allows an individual with a small amount of capital to affect and drastically change the life of several women in a developing country. For example, the Women’s Trust

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Case Study Project 2 Women’s Rhetoric 4376 Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan

organization began because Dana Dakin felt the need to make a difference in the lives of impoverished women in Ghana. Today, Women’s Trust is thriving in the village of Pokuase, with “more than 400 women in the loan program” and “repayment rates consistently above 90 percent” (Dakin, “Dana’s Story”). In addition, “funding is directed toward such pressing needs as scholarships for girls, adult literacy and a pilot initiative to shore up local healthcare” (Dakin, “Dana’s Story”). Other organizations such as Women’s World Banking have noted the necessity of improving “the economic status of poor families in developing countries by unleashing the power inherent in women” (WWB, “Mission”). Women’s World Banking emerged in 1975 out of the first International Women’s Year conference. From this gathering, a small visionary group “realized that economic independence allows women to choose and affect their own education, opportunity and well being” (WWB, “Mission”). These women went on to found Women’s World Banking “as an organization that would truly be able to meet the challenge of the coming decades and influence the economic and professional growth of women throughout the world” (WWB, “Mission”). Of course, men have had their role in establishing the legitimacy of microfinance and in using it as a tool in the war on poverty. After all, it was Muhammad Yunus’ influence which granted microfinance an international spotlight. Because women have been on the front lines of combat, however, women have uniquely influenced the course of this eternal war and turning the tides of victory in favor of independence from the relentless grip of poverty. Rhetoric of Microfinance

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Case Study Project 2 Women’s Rhetoric 4376 Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan

Most organizations utilize characteristics uniquely belonging to women’s rhetoric such as collaboration and the establishment of personal connections. The use of these characteristics makes it possible for big change to come in small packages. It is important to note that the small size of these microloans makes them so successful for women in the developing world. Fatima de los Angeles Polanco Lopez of Managua, Nicaragua is a hard-working woman who sells used clothing her loan request is $400.00. Afiwo Sodofio lives in Agoe, Togo she sells cloth, clothes, and shoes. Her request is for $500.00. Sheryl Marianas lives in Balite Sagay Camiguin Province, Philippines her request is for $250.00. These small requests seem insignificant. However, Fatima Afiwo, and Sheryl all have face, a specific plan, and a story to share with the individual who decides to sponsor their microloan requests. It is this personal touch which creates rapport with potential donors and establishes a personal connection. In addition to this tactic, microfinance organizations also employ group-lending models. First utilized by the Grameen Bank in the 1980s, microfinance organizations have seen the benefits of giving the loan to a collaborative group rather than just an individual. (Dakin, “WT Microlending”) Women’s Trust, for example, accepts potential client groups of four or five women who go through the initial screening process. The group is responsible for the total amount of money received. If one woman does not repay her loan, the entire group becomes ineligible to re-apply in the future. When approved, each woman receives her individual requested amount, but remains accountable to the group as a whole. (Dakin, “WT Microlending”) This mechanism also encourages collaboration among the women in the group who confer with each other on good business practices and potential markets. Organizations such as Women’s World Banking takes things a step further to provide workshops and

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Case Study Project 2 Women’s Rhetoric 4376 Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan

leadership training conferences so that women have a better grasp on their resources and potential expansion. (WWB, “Lateral Learning”) In short, the collaborative nature of the loans not only ensure high rates of repayment, but empower women to use the resources around them to build upon the foundation they have received. Research shows that when a woman is given the tools to develop a small business, build assets, and protect against catastrophic loss, she is empowered to change her life and that of her family. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, conducted a study on the impacts of the practice of microfinance on women in poverty. Their conclusions appeared in a 2004 article in the Bangkok Post. Because of women’s involvement in microfinance, Roy notes that “many women become leaders, instigating change in social practices and relationships and mobilising social action” (Roy). The article concluded that when women “generate and control their own income, women gain a level of power that means they can make decisions independently and command more respect” (Roy). The argument is almost too facile, yet profound in its simplicity. Because women and the household are interdependent upon one another, the success of one translates into the success of the other. A successful household influences the neighborhood around it and eventually, spreads to community as a whole. Microfinance organizations such as Women’s World Banking and Women’s Trust have recognized this truth, and most have dedicated side resources to improving education, healthcare services, and expanding opportunities for small business development.

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Case Study Project 2 Women’s Rhetoric 4376 Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan

Being able to consciously realize that we have a problem is the beginning of the solution. Some people do not recognize or understand that microloans targeted directly to poor women around the world helps their entire community. James Surowiecki argues on the financial page of The New Yorker in his article entitled What Microloans Miss that these microloans do not make the countries richer. Contrary to his point, we don’t think a trickle down approach works. One the government handling the funds may be corrupt. Two the government handling the funds may have endless red tape. Three the government handling the funds decides who gets the monies. Furthermore is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like saying let the poor women pull themselves up by their own bootstraps when they have no boots? Isn’t this like saying let the poor women feed themselves when they have no food? Isn’t this like saying let the poor women cloth themselves when they have no clothes? We reject the notion that government can best handle these types of direct investments. Now that we have created a global economy, we cannot just sit back and say that someone else will handle the problem of women in poverty around the world. Because what affects the poor women in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, India, Asia and the Pacific Rim affects everyone. As we have cited in our paper women are the most affected by poverty. These “developing” or “transitional” countries inside of these underdeveloped continents need our help. Are we as the most powerful Nation in the world comfortable seeing how poverty devastates women and children? We would hope not! We would much rather look to the example of the philanthropy in Latin America where millions of dollars are sent home to Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Jamaica every year and the many women’s organizations that are starting

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Case Study Project 2 Women’s Rhetoric 4376 Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan

to fund these loans as viable models. We would rather view microloans as a more personal endeavor rather than a corporate or governmental bureaucracy. The importance of women’s rhetoric in the practice of microfinance is evident and the success stories are overwhelming. Poverty in developing countries will continue to be a source of constant struggle, but as long as women are enabled and given the power to make a difference in their community, poverty can be beaten.

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Case Study Project 2 Women’s Rhetoric 4376 Rachel Horton & Phelix Logan

Works Cited

Dakin, Dana. "Danaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Story - The Founding of Women's Trust, Inc.". Women's Trust. March 11, 2009 <http://www.womenstrust.org/content/dana%E2%80%99s-storyfounding-womens-trust-inc>. Dakin, Dana. "OTHER WT PROGRAMS". Women's Trust. March 11, 2009 <http://www.womenstrust.org/?q=content/other-wt-programs>. Dakin, Dana. "WT MICROLENDING". Women's Trust. March 11, 2009 <http://www.womenstrust.org/?q=content/wt-microlending>. Roy, Phrang. "Poverty Reduction: A little credit goes a long way ". International Fund for Agricultural Development. March 11, 2009 <http://www.ifad.org/media/news/2004/150204.htm>. Surowiecki, James. "What Microloans Miss". The New Yorker. March 10, 2009 <http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2008/03/17/080317ta_talk_surowiecki >. Women's World Banking Inc., "Lateral Learning". Women's World Banking. March 11, 2009 <http://www.swwb.org/lateral-learning>. Women's World Banking Inc., "Mission and Vision". Women's World Banking. March 11, 2009 <http://www.swwb.org/mission-vision>.

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