In many developing countries, micro-financing has created
possibilities for burgeoning entrepreneurs who would not have found
funding before. VOA's Barry Wood reports that special attention is now
being paid to female entrepreneurs, who have had to overcome cultural
barriers to get financing. (Part 3 of 5)
The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh is
a ground breaker. It lends almost exclusively to women. And its small
business loans are almost always paid back.
Nobel Prize-winning Standard
Muhammad Yunus is
the bank's founder and a hero in his country. Grameen was the first to
lend on a grand scale to poor, aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing
world. The venture into microcredit won Yunus and his bank the Nobel
Peace Prize in 2006.
"It's fantastic news. We are all very
excited about the good news. It excites everybody in Bangladesh and
also the people who are involved in micro-credit around the world,"
Melissa Carrier, at the University of Maryland, says Grameen's micro-financing has expanded the concept of entrepreneurship.
Grameen Bank has given legitimacy to those kinds of micro-loans to
local villagers," she noted. "And so the idea of entrepreneurship now
is about doing for yourself. It's about raising chickens, and having
cows, and knitting scarves and being able to feed your family."
Microlending in Kenya
Okoth runs a market stall in Nairobi, Kenya. She is benefiting from
low-interest micro-loans from her village cooperative.
cooperative) has recently increased its limit so that you can borrow
80,000 (shillings)," she said. "And if you take out that big a loan
you'll really see your business grow."
In Kenya's post election
violence, Okoth's stall was destroyed. But coop loans allowed her to
rebuild - and also balance her business with her other job, as a wife
and mother of 12.
Now, the Grameen model is being promoted by big lenders like the World Bank, in its discussions with developing countries.
Khalifa is a business specialist at the World Bank's International
Finance Corporation. She says women in African countries face special
"Often times we've seen, and there has been some
research done especially in African countries, that women are not given
the same consideration as men when they apply for a loan," she said.
was the case in Egypt. Hoda Galal Yassa is one of Cairo's leading
female entrepreneurs. She says women in the Arab world face a
"Everybody looks at a woman...as a good
secretary, a good assistant, maybe she can cook very well and make
something from that," she said. "But to be a business woman,
particularly in the industrial field, it wasn't easy or accepted easily
Yassa started her detergent and other factories with funds from family members.
Women Face Challenges
Allen, a professor at Boston's Babson College, says access to capital
remains the biggest obstacle female entrepreneurs must overcome,
especially in Africa and the Middle East.
(women) are not able to go into banks and deal with men," she noted.
"That is a cultural barrier. And what we're seeing is that
micro-finance is one way to get around this. And also we have
recommended that banks there (in Africa) hire women."
Discrimination against women goes even further, says Dahlia Khalifa of the World Bank.
many jurisdictions, we're sometimes finding that women are treated as
legal minors, or they're not able to be a full signatory to a contract,
or to represent themselves in court," she said.
situation is improving. Men and women entrepreneurs are finding ways
to obtain capital. And some governments are beginning to take action to
make it easier to do business.