In Paraguay, we spent time getting to know Pablina Portillo. Pablina is the mother of 9, and when a tumor was found on the abdomen of her youngest son, Matías, the family spent all of their savings covering his medical expenses. Not knowing where else to turn, Pablina took out a microloan from the Fundación Paraguaya, an Acción International partner. She used the funding to buy flour, butter, and other ingredients needed to make tortas, or cakes, that she sold at a roadside stand. In doing so, she was able to help keep her family financially afloat. Today Matí is a healthy, happy 8-year-old, and the family is flourishing.
In India, we spent time with Anupama Joshi, the first female officer of the Indian Air Force. When the IAF imposed a mandatory retirement on female officers after 15 years of service – despite the fact that officers weren't eligible for pension until 20 years had been served and male officers weren't required to retire at the same time – Anupama took the case to court. It took her 7 years to win, a huge civil rights victory for women the world over. But in the interim, Anupama had taken a job working as the CEO of a microfinance organization called Sahastradhara, offering complete financial services to the poor in northern India. When the Air Force offered her her reinstated pension, she declined – making affordable microloans to the poor had become too important to her.
In Kenya, we met Tebogo Mosimane, a 27-year-old business mogul who didn't think twice about becoming an entrepreneur at a very young age. Her business lies at the intersection of microfinance and technology – the next generation of microbusiness. Kenya is the home of MPESA, the East African mobile banking platform that allows Kenyans to make payments using text message transfers. Tebogo was forward-thinking enough to see the value in investing in this new technology, and she currently leases 4 MPESA shops of her own, in which people come in and text her a certain amount of money which she then hands them in cash. Tebogo is looking to franchise as many as a dozen MPESA shops within a year, and she named the business she recently incorporated in order to do so after her 5-year-old daughter, Tandy.
In Detroit we’re getting to know Emily Thornhill, a 26-year-old artist, clothing designer, part-time auto industry employee, and Kiva City borrower who owns and designs her own line, Homeslice Clothing (www.homesliceclothing.com). Emily was one of the 5 small businessowners selected for the Kiva City launch June 30th in Detroit, as highlighted by President Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative (Kiva City Announced at CGI). We’re excited to tell the story of domestic microfinance through Emily’s eyes – and through the eyes of Judy Hainaut, the 71-year-old Pontiac, MI resident and General Motors employee who used the Kiva City website to invest in her. Through the lens of stories like these, Microlending Film Project will look critically at the potential of microlending to women, focusing on how it may function as a combatant of poverty and as an alternate credit source for people who either can’t or choose not to apply for loans at traditional banks. Interviews with leading financial experts interspersed with those from philanthropists at the forefront of their respective sectors will come together to paint a comprehensive picture of what microlending to women worldwide has already accomplished – and what this financial tool has the potential to eventually do.