Sitting at my desk on this International Women’s Day, I’m reminded of the opportunities I’ve been given to be educated and earn an income to support my family. I don’t take this for granted, especially when I read stories like that of Rashida Begum, who grew up in the overcrowded slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She never went to school and was forced into marriage at just 13 years old. By the time she was 18, she had five children.
Despite the odds against her, today, Rashida has a thriving business. She’s able to use the talents she learned as a child – embroidery and bead work – and has gained self-confidence from the growing list of customer orders she receives. Even though she’s illiterate and living in a male-dominated, oppressive society, Rashida is able to support her family with her income.
It all began with a small business loan, which she desperately needed. Unfortunately, in many countries, skill and incentive aren’t enough. The loan enabled her to buy materials and start selling things. It’s amazing to think how different her life is, simply because she’s able to work. She’s also able to pay for her kids to go to school, which means the benefits of her business will carry into the next generation.
Microlending is a simple concept that leads to independence for so many women around the world. In honor of International Women’s Day, take a minute to learn more about it. For a small investment, you could change a life in a developing country.