Tag Archives: gender

Why Lending To Women is a Smart Investment

Pignon is neat and clean with a population of around 48,000.  The paved and walkable streets, along with the laid back vibe of the place were a nice reprieve from the noise and chaos of Port-au-Prince, where we live.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__27

Isidor Jean-Pierre was giving us a walking tour of the city.  He is the World Concern Regional Coordinator in Pignon, central Haiti and earlier this week was our first visit to the office there.

We passed the city’s plaza, which has a small stage and sitting area, where Isidor explained they sometimes have concerts.  “Visiting church groups from other places in Haiti have played there before,” he said.

Soon we stopped at a brightly painted concrete building.  Here Isidor introduced us to Emilienne, a 35-year-old mother of four, who runs a business selling a variety of products like beverages, ketchup, and some food staples like beans.  “Rice and soap are the most popular,” she said, pointing to the boxes of soap sitting at the front of her shop to attract customers.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__15

Since 1998 World Concern has been serving small business owners in Pignon by providing loans and training.  The loans, taken individually or as a group, give people access to much needed capital to purchase products or other inputs and grow their business.

Emilienne received her first individual loan from World Concern in 2011 and is now on her second.  Although she has had this business for some time, the loans have allowed her to purchase different products and expand her stock.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__20“I buy the products in Hinche and Port-au-Prince mostly and a truck brings them here,” Emilienne explained.

Her shop is not the only one like it in Pignon.  There are many other shops or stands—some smaller, some bigger—selling similar products.  One of the challenges small business owners in Haiti like Emilienne face is how to stand out from the rest.  So I asked her how she competes.

“There is a shop over there,” she said, pointing.  “Some of my products are 10 gourdes cheaper.”  She answered quickly and confidently.  This was a woman who knew what she was doing.

Around midday we went back to the two room office where the four World Concern staff in Pignon work, and drank Cokes with Isidor.  I was thankful for a break from the heat.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__33

Our Pignon colleagues–Isidor is the really tall gentleman in the middle

Martha asked Isidor why so many of the microcredit clients in Pignon are women.  “If you lend money to the women, you know she will invest it in her own household,” he said.

His answer was profound yet not foreign.  It is one we have heard from a number of our colleagues around the country.  Empowering women often impacts not only the woman but also her family and community.  

The World Bank published a series of studies, including “Engendering Development” and “Gender Equality as Smart Economics,” where they show that women and girls reinvest an average of 90 percent of their income in their families, compared to a 30 to 40 percent reinvestment rate for men.  With a simple loan and basic business training, women like Emilienne are given the resources needed to succeed.

I need you to step inside Emilienne’s cultural context for a moment.  When I say succeed, don’t picture her buying a large house or a new car.  By succeed, I mean that she has consistent income and thus is able to continually provide food, clothing, shelter, and education to her immediate family and maybe even others around her.   Definitely something to congratulate her for.

Emilienne and her youngest child

Emilienne with her youngest child

International Women’s Day – Celebrating Women in Haiti

Today is International Women’s Day 2013!  This global day is all about celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.  This year’s theme is “Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.”

Gender equality is crucial to the ability of families, communities, and societies to thrive.  Unfortunately many women globally, as well as in Haiti, face an uphill battle regarding equality.  At World Concern, we agree with Justine Greening, the U.K. Secretary of State for International Development when she said,

“Locking out women isn’t just bad for an economy, it’s bad for a society.  It seems common sense, but it’s still happening.”

Women and girls need to be protected, included, and empowered.  

We are excited to do our little part in celebrating this day by introducing you to some exceptional women World Concern has had the opportunity to meet and walk alongside in Haiti.  


Meet Lizette
35 years old
Mother of two
World Concern Microcredit Client & cook extraordinaire
“The loan allows me to buy more product and grow my business.”
Way to go Lizette!

















Meet Emmanuela
20 years old
Comes from a family of farmers
Intern at World Concern’s agricultural training center & future community educator
“I will be able to teach the farmers so we can move forward as a country.”
Now that is a woman with a vision.










Meet Bellia
Mother of two
Small business owner since 1997 selling clothing and accessories
World Concern Microcredit Client & savvy entrepreneur
How does she remain competitive?   “With my wisdom.  I smile and offer a good price.”  With a smile like this, how can she go wrong?




Thanks for your partnership in supporting women in Haiti!  I encourage you to visit the International Women’s Day website to learn more.  One way you can get involved with World Concern in this area (if you are a lady!) is to become a part of our Women of Purpose program.  This is a great way to learn about issues women face globally and to join us as we serve them in the places we work.


International Day of the Girl – Inspiration from two Women in Haiti

Today is the International Day of the Girl!  As I browse through forums, articles, and videos from people around the world that are passionate about the situation of girls, I feel it is both sobering and exciting.

Sobering to think of the magnitude of the challenges these girls are facing—illiteracy, school dropout, forced marriage, HIV and gender-based violence continue to dramatically affect girls’ lives around the world.  By 2015, females will make up 64% of the world’s (adult) population who cannot read (Education for All Global Monitoring Report in 2011).  On the other hand, an extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent and an extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)  There are solutions, but things are not going to change on their own.  We cannot be passive about this.  We have to invest in girls and women.

I read an article about The Girl Effect and they ask, “How do you start with a girl and end up with a better world?”  This is where the excitement comes in.  I am excited that people are asking these types of questions.  I am excited to see proof of the difference education can make in a girl’s life.  I am excited to have a part in empowering more girls like Kethia, who Austin shared about yesterday, to have access to life-changing education.  I am excited when I think of our time in Haiti and the women and girls we met there.

I met women like Rolande, who had received a micro-loan that enabled her to start and grow her small business.  She joyfully served us dinner from her little restaurant by the ocean.  But not only did she have a business, she had a means to send her little girl to school.

Rolande fixing dinner

I met women like Marie, who had overcome the loss of her husband, was raising 4 boys on her own, and was living a vibrant life despite being HIV positive.  Since receiving help and training from World Concern four years ago, she has joined World Cocnern to help train others who are HIV positive as well.

Marie telling us her story

These two women are an inspiring example of resilience and courage.  Through their stories, we see hope.  When given access to the resources they needed, they did not hesitate to make the most of it and they did not hesitate to invest back into those around them.  When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 per- cent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)

The sobering and exciting paradox is what can drive us to action.  I think about these women, that they were once girls, and how World Concern is working to provide opportunity and resources to girls and women.  We can look at young girls and see future Rolande’s and Marie’s—women who have overcome challenges and stepped beyond their current norms in the developing world.  I am eager we have the opportunity to serve in Haiti, invest in girls, and continue to share their stories of hope with you.

Day of the Girl – education & empowerment

October 11 2012 is an important day. It marks the first annual International Day of the Girl. Martha and I want to use this day as an opportunity to advocate for girls in Haiti and celebrate the successes that we are seeing in Haiti with our organization, World Concern.

It is becoming clear globally as well as in Haiti, that empowering girls and providing them with resources to succeed is vital in the long term development of communities and the country as a whole.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen recently said, “Countries that have expanded opportunities for women and girls in education and work in recent decades have largely achieved greater prosperity and moderated population growth while limiting child mortality and achieving social progress for all…There is an overwhelming need to pay attention to the needs of girls and women.”

As Mr. Sen indicates, increasing opportunities to education for girls is an important way we can work to improve the rights of women and girls. In Haiti specifically, this is a big need. According to the United Nations Human Development Report for 2011, only 22.5% of women in Haiti have at least a secondary education.

This is exactly why World Concern is working towards educating girls in Haiti and providing them with opportunities to succeed. World Concern is an organization that believes children are the hope for the future. As with other program areas, our work in education is focused on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. This makes me excited and is one reason (of many) that I am pleased to be a part of this organization!

Kethia showing off her big smile

In June I had the opportunity to meet Kethia.  This young girl had a calm demeanor but her smile radiated a lot of energy and joy.  She is a sixth grader and a part of World Concern’s Hope to Kids program in southern Haiti.  This program provides students in rural Haiti with a goat, which they take home and help raise.  For Kethia, the goat is much more than a pet; it is her future!

“When my goat had kids, I was able to sell the kids to pay for school,” Kethia explained.

Education is empowering Kethia and providing her with the knowledge she needs to have a bright future.

The Hope to Kids program is helping to educate many students like Kethia

If poverty is to be overcome, if communities are to be renewed, and if transformation is to occur, girls must be protected, equipped, and engaged. There is certainly no silver bullet in doing such things. However education is one area that can make a difference in the lives of girls.



This week, to celebrate the first annual International Day of the Girl, I want to ask you to remember in your prayers Kethia and other girls like her in Haiti.  These are precious young women that like young women everywhere, have dreams of a full and abundant life.  There remain many challenges for girls in Haiti, specifically in regards to opportunities for continued education, however I hope you are encouraged by the small successes we are seeing.

Who said learning couldn’t be fun?!







Martha and I see ourselves as advocates for Haiti.  We care about this place and its’ people deeply.  Our desire is to communicate stories of hope and transformation that give a just and accurate picture of life in Haiti.  There is so much more to this country than what you see on television.  Thank you for your partnership in telling Kethia’s story to people all over the world.  Martha and I are able and willing to serve but we realize nothing could happen without the support of people like you.  If you have not joined our support team and are interested in helping us serve the most vulnerable in Haiti, I would encourage you to consider becoming a monthly partner.  This is an investment that you will not regret!

The Role of Women in Haiti

Martha and I have been privileged to meet several people in the Seattle area that have direct experience working in Haiti.  These new found friends have been a source of encouragement and have taught us much about what we can expect in Haiti.  One such friend invited us to join her this past week for a talk given by Anne-Christine d’Adesky, hosted by the World Affairs Council.  The talk was titled “What About the Women?  The role of women in post-quake Haiti” and focused on the difficulties facing women following the 2010 quake and highlighted some triumphs.  D’Adesky is a journalist, author, filmmaker, and gender rights advocate with extensive experience in Haiti so the stories and information she shared regarding women in Haiti was raw and telling.  Gender specific programs (both from aid groups and the public sector) in Haiti receive little funding in comparison to other sectors such as agriculture and health.  Additionally, women in Haiti are particularly vulnerable to domestic assault and sexual violence.  The fact that the country is still recovering from the massive earthquake over two years ago just exacerbates their plight.

Our experience and future work is within the context of community development and the non-government organization (NGO).  Therefore, I found myself asking the question “What does this information mean for NGOs, specifically for Martha and I in our future work, and how can we come alongside women in Haiti?”  D’Adesky provided some sound recommendations for what can be improved and two particularly stuck out to me:

1.  Bring women in Haiti to the table.  Include women in the decisions being made that effect their lives and families.  Allow them to participate not only in the rebuilding of their own lives and strengthening of their rights, but also in the rebuilding of their community and country.

2.  Give women’s programs and services the attention and financial support they deserve.

This talk gave us a deeper understanding of the situation for many women in Haiti today.  We hope to take this knowledge and turn it into action.  Martha and I don’t have a ton of influence or power, but the energy and skills we do have will certainly be used to empower and strengthen women in our sphere.  We are looking forward to sharing with you first hand about how World Concern is using its’ resources and leverage to support women in Haiti.  To see what World Concern is up to in Haiti please follow this link and then click on “Haiti” on the right hand side of the page.