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70% of the World's Poorest People Are Women - Focusing on Women to Fight Global Poverty & Extremists

According to Lisa Kant, Vice President of the Yale Club of Southern California and founder and creator of the event “Empowering Women Through Microfinance,” women account for around 70% of the world’s poorest people, though making up about 50% percent of the global population.

To combat this inequality and the wider inequalities that result, targeting women is a major aim of microfinance organizations such as Kiva.org, a charitable organization that has distributed over $86 million globally in micro loans to the working impoverished.

“Women’s status both in their homes and in their communities is elevated when they are responsible for managing loans and savings. Research shows that credit extended to women has a significant impact on their families' quality of life, especially their children,” says Kant.

The Micro-credit Summit Campaign Report 2009 indicates that among all microfinance institutions 83.4% of the poorest clients have been women. Though this reflects a blatant gender inequality, it is promising that 88 million women have chosen to make opportunity for themselves and their families and take financial control by taking out micro loans.

Kiva.org has become widely renowned for making great strides. Its charitable loans can be as small as $25 with options for lenders to donate upon repayment or to put the $25 repaid towards another loan. The rate of on-time repayment is 97%, which in the words of Adam Fisher from TIME indicates that “your money is safer in the hands of the world’s poor than in your 401(k).”

Through organizations such as Kiva.org, microfinance continues to help the millions around the world who would not have access to financial services otherwise and who through microfinance, have the ability to increase their business profits and savings.

“One of the greatest values of microfinance is that it has helped to change the way we as a community think about poverty and the poor. Microfinance makes us see that the poor are capable of saving, controlling their finances and lifting themselves out of poverty if given the opportunity.” Kant believes firmly that working together can produce large scale results.

In part inspired by the 40th anniversary of women’s acceptance into Yale College, Kant decided to join forces with UCLA graduate and undergraduate organizations and the Los Angeles Microfinance Network to organize the event.

She wants to remind people that gender inequalities still persist and leaps of progress have been quite recent but that there is ample opportunity to take even larger steps towards progress. “Women across the globe still face the discrimination and prejudices that my generation often takes for granted. But there are very tangible efforts that we can undertake to change this situation and prevent it from continuing in the future.”

Discussion at Kant's event will be lead by Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org, Yale professor Dean Karlan, and others and will tell us why microfinance organizations focus on women and how focusing on women is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremists.  It will start at 7pm on April 28th at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.  To learn more or register for the event  visit the Empowering Women Through Microfinance website.

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