By Sara Smith
Today I awoke very early to travel to Thanh Hoa with my guide Ms. Hung. We met with the Thanh Hoa Fund for Poor Women. This organization is a micro-finance lender started in 1998. The group has grown to more than 90 employees managing over 14,000 different loans. This week marks a monumental achievement for the organization as it being recognized formally as a credit institution. This will require higher compliance and a bit more regulations, but the organization will be able to expand its capacity and ability to loan to other clients.
While my background is not in micro-financing, I do work in Missoula with the Montana Community Development Corporation on its loan committee. In many ways, the mission and structure of the Fund for Poor Women is similar. Both organizations seek to achieve economic empowerment to better the community and provide opportunities and jobs for the borrowers.
The Fund for Poor Women seeks to elevate the position of women in particular by providing a loan for approximately $350 USD. The borrowers repay the loan at an interest rate of less than 1%. The borrowers must take a class in order to receive the funds that teaches them how to manage the money.
I met several of the borrowers today. I met women who used the funds to purchase animals, to buy inventory for a store, or to buy a machine to cut stone. I asked them what they have learned so far and many said that they learned how to save. If the first loan is a success, the borrower may go back to the Fund to ask for a larger loan. Many of the women I met said this is part of their plan, to make their business bigger.
I was incredibly impressed with this organization. As one of the most successful micro-financing groups in the area, the new status as an accredited organization will only lead it to assist more people in need.