LatinaLista -- The practice of microfinance -- loaning low-income entrepreneurs small loans to start or help their businesses along -- is not a new concept. In fact, it's been around, with a lot of success, for several years.
Microfinance is especially popular in third-world countries where cash is short, need is long and entrepreneurs abundant. FINCA has been in the microfinance business for 25 years. Like other organizations of its kind, it's mission has been to help poor entrepreneurs around the world escape poverty -- with one twist. They focus on women.
FINCA lends primarily to women for several reasons. First, the feminization of poverty is a worldwide trend. Seventy percent of the world's poor are women, largely because of their limited access in many countries to education or to productive resources like land and credit.
Another worldwide trend is an increase in woman-headed households, in which a mother provides the sole support for her children. Most victims of severe poverty are children.
According to UNICEF, at least half of the 12 million children aged five or younger who die each year, perish from malnutrition associated with severe poverty. As FINCA's founder John Hatch has said, "Our focus on women was the result of a growing conviction that the fastest way to affect the welfare of children was through aid to their mothers."
Loans via FINCA are placed through their "Lend a Hand" site that allows donors to choose the country, industry and person they want to specifically loan money to. Each borrower's story is featured on the site with their target goal. Donations begin at $25 and go all the way up to $300.
As of now, there are 226 entrepreneurs from four countries that Lend a Hand is working with: Afghanistan, El Salvador, Haiti and Zambia. Their businesses range from sewing to selling food or cosmetics. In many cases, the women are the only breadwinners in the family.