Low income earning women are generally considered risky in the banking industry.
That means they cannot borrow and consequently have no credit history.
That’s also the story of Egyptian women who though have small businesses supporting their families, cannot raise credit to expand.
Sabah, owns a small business and has experienced the difficulty in doing business with traditional banks.
“I went to (the bank) first and asked, to see if I could get a loan, and they said I could take 10,000 or 15,000 Egyptian pounds, but they made life difficult for me, asking for a water bill, and a phone bill and this, this and that. I’m raising my children without their father, where would I get all these things?’‘
For almost 3 decades an Egyptian NGO has been on a mission to help these women start and grow their businesses by providing them small loans.
The women have to belong to a borrower’s club to guarantee repayment then they can access individual and group loans.
The model has empowered the beneficiary women, lifting their families out of poverty.
“When I first started, I used to make 2,000 Egyptian pounds. Now I make close to 20,000. I have a notebook where I document the money and this is the result”, said Sayeda Hassan, a beneficiary and small business owner.
Howaida Hassan has a similar success story.
“I heard that they were giving loans to women at Amr Mosque and I began by borrowing 300 Egyptian pounds and now, thank God, I’ve reached 4,000 pounds and I gave the other spot to my sons Ahmed and Mohammed and opened up this other business here for myself and my daughter Aya.”
The Ngo, the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women pays regular visits to the homes of their beneficiaries to ensure that they are in control of the money and not their husbands.
Co-founder Iman Bibars said when they started out in 1984, many did not give them a chance to succeed.
“Everyone in Egypt stood against us. ‘You are girls, you don’t know anything, you are naive, these women will run away, they live in slums’. We were told everything that you can imagine, but we said, no, we’ll be determined and we’ll do it, and rightly so, we started giving loans, like Grameen Bank”.
The Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women has a map to ensure that no two similar businesses open up in the same area, increasing the chance of business success for their members.