I’m always struck by how microfinance is truly one of those things where you get back what you put into it. That’s what makes it part of a transformational approach to development, as opposed to a “handouts” approach. This kind of approach is critically important when it comes to widows in Egypt. Historically, these women have experienced charitable approaches that have met their immediate needs without empowering them to break the cycle of poverty.
Every business-starting widow who takes out a loan with the B’edaya microfinance initiative commits to paying back the money so it can be ploughed back into the community. They also agree to save some of their profits to build a stable foundation for their family. In that sense, each entrepreneur is also agreeing to steer her own future, and that of her community. I’ve met these women, and they take these obligations very seriously.
Madame Nadia is one of the widows who’s taken out a B’edaya loan, and she’s out to prove that the headline of this update is not a typo. She’s a seamstress. For the past 20 years, Madame Nadia has been supporting her family and caring for her ailing husband using a small sewing machine that she operates on the floor. She learned her trade by sewing her children’s undershirts and eventually their clothing. When her neighbors caught on to her work, she began to accumulate customers and has been making clothing for others ever since.
When her husband passed away, Madame Nadia continued to be the main provider for her family. Life didn’t get any easier with the loss of her loved one, and since then she has been looking for ways to break the cycle of poverty.
That’s where B’edaya comes in. With her micro-loan, Madame Nadia has purchased a new and larger sewing machine, one with a table. She has high hopes that her small business will grow.
And of course she has high hopes – otherwise, she wouldn’t have taken out a loan of US$377, a large sum in her hometown of Minya in Upper Egypt. But this is the dynamic of B’edaya. It allows widows without any capital to mobilize resources for business projects that would otherwise be out of reach. It allows them to aim for a better life, in defiance of a world that arrays immense forces against them.
She’s showed that she works hard and is not afraid to take calculated risks. Those are key ingredients of a successful entrepreneur, so I’m confident that Madame Nadia will reap what she sews.
I’ll be visiting Egypt this month. I’ll be sure to ask how Madame Nadia is doing, and keep you updated.