Kathleen M. Snoddon recently returned from Morocco where she was able to witness microfinance first-hand. This is the third in a five-part blog series about her journeys.
Muhammad Yunus’ model for non-collateralized, small loans consists of the formation of groups or “pods” that serve as a support system to guarantee that any one person does not default on their loan. Groups are formed with women who usually know each other and are, preferably, engaged in different enterprises. This peer system has proven very effective and provides more than just monetary fall back in the case of sickness or an event that interferes with a borrower’s ability to make her loan payments. There is an emotional support system inherent in this structure.
We witnessed this as the women were called forward by “groups” to talk about their lives and their businesses. As their stories unfolded, we learned how their lives have changed. Their children go to school. They have new homes. Their hopes and dreams flourish. It is amazing that, as women in a male dominated society, they had the courage to forge this independence and raise themselves above their previous circumstances. At the end of each storytelling they said that they would not have been able to do it without the loans, “Alhamdulillah”, thanks to God.
It didn’t take too long for our meeting structure to start to break down. The villagers looking in were getting louder and louder, the children were running into the center of the circle to sample the left over pancakes and the women who had not had a chance to talk seemed impatient to have the stage. We thought it was just the right time to break into groups and let the women show us what they do and where they live. We were split into three groups, necessitated by the number of interpreters we had with us.
My group consisted of my two daughters, Emily and Sarah, Lynne and her daughter Taylor and Hakima, the loan officer from FONDEP. We started up the road with three of the borrowers from the gathering who one-by-one, peeled off and scampered down the path to their homes to prepare for when it was their turn to receive us. We were left with Fennan, who guided us into a field near her home where she kept her goats.