For many women in the developing world, life is a constant struggle against poverty and hardship. Limited economic opportunity leads to a downward cycle of malnutrition, illiteracy and poor health - a cycle that traps each new generation. Through access to microfinance - financial services such as microcredit loans, insurance, savings and other products - women can overcome poverty and provide a better life for their children.
We at Shabby Apple love to help women dress but are also commited to helping women live as well. Thus we are supporting the fight against global poverty by partnering with Accion-a non-profit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need to work their way out of poverty. Shabby Apple donates 5% of its net income to support work with 62 microfinance institutions in 31 countries throughout the world.
With every dress you buy from Shabby Apple, you are helping make a difference in the lives of Women Worldwide.LEARN MORE ABOUT ACCION>
Go to China.Fly north from Beijing over ragged mountains,down into the wind-blasted steppe of Inner Mongolia-to Chifeng a city of 2.4 million you've probably never heard of.Travel east from Chifeng by smoke-filled taxi for an hour, to Yuanbaoshan,a city of 300,000 you've definitely never heard of.Walk an hour and a half from the city center,where Accion Microfinance China(AMC) opened in December, to Gushan Country-a trip that Accion loan officer Cong Lijie makes every week to visit clients such as Li Xiaoyan and her husband,Han Dongdong.
This is where Accion works-on this cold street of small shops, where the couple opened a barbecue restaurant a year ago. It is a pilot of sorts, much like Accion's operations here. Li and Han are testing the market with 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. shifts and a $1,500 loan to see if they can do better than Han's former job at the hospital. Their clients, second-shift coal miners, seem to approve, packing the small restaurant nightly.
Amidst such progress, certain constants remain: Yuanbao is an ancient form of currency; shan means 'mountain'. Coal translates to gold here, of which Li and Han are supremely aware.
Bihar is home to 90 million people, 53 percent of whom are illiterate with a per capita income of just US$160. For years, Bihar has suffered from natural disasters and neglect that have kept its people in cripppling poverty. These conditions have deterred many people from setting up businesses in Bihar, but not the Sinhas. After successful careers in the Indian private sector, husband and wife team, Mr. and Mrs.S.R.Sinha, moved back to Bihar from Delhi, motivated to give back to those less fortunate in their home state. They knew microfinance was a proven way to improve lives. So in 2007, they founded Saija Finance - the first Bihar-based regulated microfinance institution. Saija is now providing poor, hardworking Biharis with the means to work their way out poverty through microfinance.
Accion and Saija: Building Opportunity through Microfinance
In 2008, Accion partnered with Saija, offering our 37 years of experience providing microfinance services to poor and marginalized populations. Accion's training, management expertise and investment is helping expand Saija's start-up operation quickly and effectively.
Today, 100 percent of the tea wallahs, fish mongers and other microentreprenrurs we serve through Saija have repaid their microloans on time. These loans are not just building businesses, but confidence, dignity and capacity to succeed.
Take Parwali Devi for example(pictured above). After her husband died, Parwali had to work 14 hours a day in her vegetable stand to support two children - and she was still only bringing home $1 a day. Living in Bihar, Parwali's life of hard work and poverty seemed inescapable. But a series of microloans from Saija changed everything.
Today, four loans and two years later, parwali's business is growing, and with more income, she is now able to feed her family better, more nutritious food.
Client of Accion partner Microfinance BankTwice a week, she makes the seven-hour round trip journey to a farm in a neighboring state to buy live poultry. Then, at the crack of dawn each remaining day, she carries four cages full of chickens, cockrells and turkeys through the hot, crowded passages of the Awolono Market in Mushin - a sprawling open bazaar in the streets of Lagos, Nigeria. Repeat this times 20 years, and you'll get a better sense of Faodun's life.
One day Falodun heard about Accion partner Accion Microfinance Bank through a market storm - a coordinated barrage of loan officers going stall to stall to hand out promational leaflets about their institution's services. In 2008, Falodun's days changed for the better when she received a US$840 loan to expand her business. She was able to acquire more animals and supplis, thus minimizing her time on the road and the resulting losses she experienced from the extreme heat that sometimes killed her chickens in transit. Today, she is also able to breed a few birds herself. She given her business the name " Ilunu Livestock Venture."
With fewer tripes to the neighboring state, Falodun has more time to care for her two children, and while she did not go to school herself, she is making sure her children do. Nestled between long rows of cages in the fowl market, Falodun tells us the biggest challenge her business has faced is not having enough capital. Today, that is no longer the case.