by Nicholas Baldry

There are roughly three and a half billion people in the global talent pool whose earning capacity is restricted due to one simple factor – gender. This is a huge problem throughout the world; with women in developed countries such as the U.S. earning nearly 20% less than their male counterparts. In less developed countries, poor families already struggling for survival are hamstrung by limitations on the earning capacity of the female population.

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

Throughout rural Niger, in fact-across all of sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls are left with the responsibility of spending hours each day collecting water from remote, dangerous, not to mention often- contaminated sources. Beyond this, they are responsible for purchasing increasingly expensive food, and looking after the home and children amongst many other tasks. This means that women not only suffer economic poverty but also an incredible time deficiency. As a result of this massive burden, young girls spend less time in school than boys, and women spend the majority of their time attempting to scrape together the bare essentials of life, dependent on money brought in by the males of the family.

{photo by Ida Harding}

Time poverty is most certainly one obstacle women face in increasing their earning capacity, but a lack of investment to get them started on their own enterprises is also a substantial stumbling block. This is why Wells Bring Hope doesn’t simply “drill and dash” in the communities where we work. We have recognized the enormous potential of the women of Niger, women who have a strong cultural history of banding together to save money and support one another’s ventures. When we drill a well, we also provide micro-loans to the women in the community. The time that is freed by the drilling of a well, coupled with an initial investment and education in developing a savings and loan model that works for the community allows the women to invest in themselves. They can begin to produce food to supplement their families’ nutrition and to sell at market. They can create saleable products such as soap or millet cakes. These additional income streams make a huge difference to families, particularly in countries like Niger where the GDP per capita is only $374.

Of course I as a white, male, middle-class, Brit living in the United States can sit here and tell you why microloans will help low income women in rural Niger to earn more and how that benefits their families, but the best people to tell you what a difference micro-loans make are the women themselves. On the Wells Bring Hope micro-loans page (here) we have videos where some of the women we have already helped tell you in their own voices what a difference that newfound economic freedom has made to them and how it has helped their families. You can also click below to hear our Director of Microfinance and native Nigerien, Hadiara Diallo, and women of villages where we work discuss the impact of microfinance.