“Dependency Is Not Empowering”

It was the year 2000, and I was attending a microfinance conference at Brandeis University. After I gave my talk about a program in Burkina Faso that I had just evaluated, Marcia Odell, at the time the director of Pact’s Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP) in Nepal, walked up to the podium, and with a voice filled with passion told of a dramatically different approach to financial services for the poor. Pact’s WEP initiative made it possible for small groups of village women to pool regular savings into a usefully large fund they managed themselves. They could borrow from that growing fund as they needed. A better way to save and borrow was being delivered in a simple, low-cost, replicable, and (as I was ...

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