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Small Entrepreneurs Flourish Beneath Himalayan Giants

Kathmandu, Nepal –

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Travel posters that invite tourists and trekkers to Nepal depict a country irresistible to the adventurer. The Himalayas are stupendous. They reveal a startling white world, the highest and mightiest on earth. Yet not many miles to the south, Nepal’s Chitwan jungle is a dominion of elephant and tiger.

The picture is not oversold. Among the faraway places on earth, Nepal appeals almost instantly and magnetically to the explorer and seeker.

But its poverty and tragedy reveal another Nepal that on the surface is one of the horrors of humanity. In Nepal millions of people live below subsistence levels, orphaned children by the thousands live on garbage piles or are enslaved; young women are forced into prostitution, transported to India and elsewhere. The misery seems endless. In the spring of 2001 the country’s future king went berserk in the royal palace and massacred his family before killing himself. Within a few months of that slaughter the seven-year-old Maoist insurgency had forced a suspension of parliamentary government, sowing political chaos in a country that could barely stay afloat even in orderly times, with so little to export.

But if you can take the time (and accept the risk) of traveling today in the remotest parts of one of the poorest and most politically inept countries in the world, you make some remarkable discoveries. One of them is the thousands of women who are liberating themselves and their families from the manacles of poverty and oblivion.

Microcredit works in the most improbable places on earth. You see that in Uganda and in the mountain country of South America and in the debris of civil war or political oppression or even threatened famine in the Far East. But Nepal is a little harder to imagine.

In some places in western Nepal, loan officers administering village banking groups sometimes have to walk days to reach a weekly or monthly meeting. In the hill country of western Nepal not long ago, members of a self-help banking group were meeting in a sparsely-furnished village hall when armed Maoists walked in and demanded to know what the meeting was all about.

The program officer stood at the bookkeeping table with a handful of small rupee notes and tried to explain what was happening. These women were meeting, he said, to vote on appeals for loans by members of the group. They needed to bring more money into their little businesses and their families. The Maoists wanted to know what kind of money they were talking about.

 “One or two thousand rupees,” he said. It translated into $13 to $25 if you converted rupees to American money. Nobody was converting anybody’s money in the presence of gun-wielding Maoists on that day, or doing much except looking at the barrels of those semi-automatic weapons.

One of the Maoists demanded a month’s pay from the edgy program officer, who stood too terrified to speak.

“How much money do you make?” the Maoist leader asked him.

He gave the figure and emptied his pockets.

The Maoist scowled and then grumbled. “I’m making more than you are,” he said. “Go on with your meeting.” The patrol walked out of the building and disappeared.

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The staying power of the microcredit idea and the commitment of its members and its sustaining staffs around the world sometimes surprise hardboiled money handlers and humanitarian experts alike. Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising.  The human spirit lifted by hope and spurred by incentive or desperation is not easily defeated.  Although Americans are long conditioned to the power of the enterprising spirit, they often overlook it when they’re confronted with the poverty of less advanced parts of the world.

Barefoot W

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Posted by on in General

In Their Words:

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We are building the next generation of top-tier microfinance institutions (MFIs):
  • Using our 50 years of experience to help smaller MFIs achieve greater scale, sustainability and efficiency;
  • Helping MFIs expand their products and services to address their clients’ full range of needs; and
  • Focusing on un- and under-served regions, such as India, China, Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa.

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We are pushing the frontiers of financial inclusion beyond MFIs:
  • Accelerating the development of new business models, technologies and channels; and
  • Providing seed funding and assistance for promising start-ups and adjacent technologies through impact investment initiatives.

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We are helping to build a strong financial inclusion industry with high standards and broad engagement:
  • Redoubling industry commitment to consumer protection through the Smart Campaign;
  • Providing platforms for industry collaboration, through the Microfinance CEO Working Group, the Red Accion, and the Financial Inclusion Equity Council; and
  • Promoting consumer protection, transparency, and social-performance measurement by working on initiatives such as the Social Performance Task Force, Microfinance Transparency, and others.

WHY THEY MATTER: Accion helps microfinance internationally, while still focusing on important elements of change such as governance and client education.

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Find out more at:



World Pulse has developed a digital platform that is sitting on the most valuable storehouse of intellectual properties in the world:  the networking of women's knowledge in communities across the globe.” - Hazel Henderson, World Renowned Futurist and Economic Evolutionist

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In Their Words: World Pulse is a powerful online community of women and allies worldwide who speak out and build solutions to today’s biggest challenges. We empower women leaders on the ground by advancing their digital skills and leadership to mobilize around the world and create real social transformation. Today, tens of thousands of women from 190 nations are using to start movements and pressure global leaders to take a stand on the issues affecting their lives, ranging from the allocation of economic resources to securing leadership at all levels of society.

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WHY THEY MATTER: World Pulse believes that when women are heard and connected, they transform the world for the better. We couldn’t agree more. Find out more at:


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Field:  women and girls, photography

Where:  multiple countries


A renewable source of light is a miracle for women whose productive hours have always been controlled by sunrise and sunset. With a bottle of light in hand she is safe, and able to fill her evenings with work, study and family. She is no longer in the dark.

In many developing countries, women are being trained as solar engineers. They are being taught to build solar lanterns, clean cookstoves, and a brighter world for themselves and their children.


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.” -Martin Luther

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Posted by on in General

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The mission of Vital Voices is to empower, identify, and invest in the voices of extraordinary women all around the world. Their global partnership identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, creating a better world for everyone.

Vital Voices works to combat issues that confront women each and every day on every corner of the earth. It enables women to become agents of change in their governments, advocates for social justice, and supporters of democracy and the rule of law.

Vital Voices staff is scattered throughout the world and works with a team of over 1,000 partners, pro bono experts, and leaders, all of whom have trained more than 14,000 emerging women leaders from over 144 countries.

Recently, Vital Voices has launched an initiative entitled “Commitment to Action” at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York to take a market-driven approach to advancing women-owned businesses in global supply chains.

Partners commit to track and measure at least $1.5 billion in money spent on women-owned businesses located outside of the United States from 2013 to 2018. 15,000 female entrepreneurs around the world will benefit from supplier readiness initiatives, including training, mentoring, networking, and leadership development. 

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