Lending a Hand to Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide

Posted on August 01, 2012, by Lizzie Presser, Half the Sky Movement

“Ooh! Two more loans since about an hour ago. It just keeps growing and growing!” exclaimed Valerie Harrington as she signed into her Half the Sky team page on Kiva, a non-profit organization that connects Internet users with micro-lending institutions and budding entrepreneurs around the world.

After Valerie’s book group read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women WorldwideValerie was drawn to micro-lending as a means to help women pull themselves out of poverty. She felt compelled to get involved in the movement and, with the help of her book group, founded Half The Sky: Empowering Women Team on the Kiva website where team members, their families, friends, acquaintances, and cyber buddies lend money to low-income women looking to start businesses. To date, their team has funded more than $45,000 in loans.

A retired architect, Valerie had never before called her friends to action. But now, among the nearly 800,000 lenders on Kiva, Valerie is cited as a successful community organizer whom other lenders can learn from.


Valerie and her book club have helped raise over $45,000 in loans for female entrepreneurs.



“I love letting people know how easy it is to help someone through micro-lending,” Valerie said in an interview. Valerie spends a lot of her time talking to people about the impact of microloans and how to use Kiva: browse the loan requests on Kiva’s website, select the entrepreneur you want to help, make an online payment to fund a portion of the loan and, eventually, get repaid. She asks team members in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, to host small events in their homes so they can work closely with their guests to make their first loan and join the team. “It’s so simple. You lend $25, you change a life, you get repaid. [After that] it’s the relending that really starts growing exponentially.”


In the past two years, 265 members from nine countries have joined this Half the Sky Kiva team and funded more than 1,700 loans. The beauty of Kiva is that all the lenders choose individually which projects they want to fund. If they find one story particularly compelling, they can write to the whole team and encourage others to join in too. Recently, eight of their team members loaned funds to a women’s group looking to buy and raise sheep for resale in Senegal. A few more joined together to help a 60-year-old widow in Gurjanni, Georgia, pay for her granddaughter’s education.

“Thanks to some very committed teammates, we’ve created a strong sense of community on our team,” said Valerie. “Now we have this exchange of ideas on our team message board and we’re building enthusiasm.”  They’ve built so much enthusiasm, in fact, that Valerie even convinced Nicholas Kristof to join their team.

Now, Valerie wants to get you on board, too. Click here for an invitation to join Half the Sky: Empowering Women Kiva team and make a free $25 trial loan to a woman of your choice. If you like micro-lending, she hopes you’ll stay on board by relending your credits over and over again.

What has Half the Sky inspired you to do? Share your story.