Shamsul Haque of Society for Development Initiatives (Bangladesh) discusses his organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty, and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Haque explains that SDI’s objective is to reduce poverty in Bangladesh through an integrated approach involving components such as microcredit, education, and the environment.
Haque is attending the Summit to gain experience from people in other countries on how they providing non-financial services like health, education, and the environment. “Microfinance plus at least education and health,” Haque said. “If we combine education, health and microcredit ….they [clients] will graduate [out of poverty]. They will be a respectable people in society. That is also our objective.”
Shazia Abbas of Micro Options (Pakistan) discusses her organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty, and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Micro Options provides microcredit services for agriculture, livestock, and alternative energy (i.e., solar and bio-gas), combining access to capital with skills training with a focus on women and youth.
Abbas says that the Summit is a great forum and the biggest networking event for the region and globally. On her experience in Abu Dhabi, she appreciates “learning how other people are doing this work differently, and especially the opportunities we can leverage. That was wonderful. Every session is very important, and I was confused which to pick and not to pick,” Abbas adds with a chuckle. “I will definitely take some learning that I can cooperate at my organization so that we can deliver even better.”
Tarik Sayed Harun of COAST Trust (Bangladesh) discusses the role of microfinance to help end poverty and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Harun explains that the poverty rate in Bangladesh has been reduced by 10 percent over the past five years. He suggests that recent research showing that microfinance in Bangladesh contributes approximately 10 percent to the nation’s GDP supports his contention that microfinance has a strong role to contribute to ending poverty.
“[The 18th Microcredit Summit] is very good opportunity to learn from each other and about very good practices from around the world,” said Harun. “We are trying to learn from the good practices and to implement them in our country, my organization. Overall our one commitment is to reduce poverty, so this is a very good opportunity to learn from each other.”
Lev Plaves of KIVA talks with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway, about what he was most excited to learn about at the 18th Microcredit Summit. “What we are most excited about is how much discussion there was at the Summit about how different stakeholders — whether investors or practitioners — are really working to improve how we’re measuring impact,” Plaves says. “That was really great to see, and I am excited to see moving forward how that plays out in terms of people working to really increase how we are quantifying the outcomes we are having as an industry.”
Sohelia Naznin Haque of Society for Development Initiatives (Bangladesh) discusses the role of microfinance to help end poverty and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.
Haque echoed Dr. Muhammed Yunus, supporting the goals of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and financial inclusion through technological advancement. She explains how SDI reaches the poor in a way that big banks do not, going to their homes and visiting rural areas.
“We go to them, think about or listen to their demands, needs, motives, drives. According to that, we make our microfinance products and try fulfill their demands,” said Haque. “[Commercial] banks’ interest rates are too high, but our interest rates are not too high according to the demand we provide them.”
Muhammad Zubair Mughal of Al Huda Center of Islamic Banking and Economics attended his first Microcredit Summit. He discusses Islamic microfinance, the role of microfinance to help end poverty and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Mughal learned from the Summit about different techniques for poverty alleviation. Specifically, he appreciates the focus on financial education, insurance, and integrating health service.
Al Huda is dedicated to developing Islamic microfinance, poverty alleviation, and social development. “There is a misconception that Islamic microfinance is only for Muslims,” said Mughal. “No. Islamic microfinance is a system which can be utilized by Muslims and non-Muslims for poverty alleviation and social development,” Mughal concludes.
Alia Farhat of Al Majmoua (Lebanon) discusses her organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty — in particular with the Syrian refugee crisis — and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.
Al Majmoua was founded in 1994 and is the leading microfinance organization in Lebanon, managing a portfolio of US $52 million. She believes that microfinance is part of the value chain to end poverty and that MFIs need to provide more than just finance to end poverty. Al Majmoua offers microinsurance and savings products as well as to entrepreneurship and financial literacy training.
Farhat describes how Al Majmoua, which means “the group,” has evolved from its group lending origins to its current work with refugees. Lebanon, a population of only 4.5 million, has seen an influx of 1.3 million Syrian refugees over the last three years. “We needed to do something” to help, she explains, so they started with non-financial services to women and youth such as vocational and entrepreneurship training.
Bdour Alhyari of Microfund for Women (Jordan) talks with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway, at the 18th Microcredit Summit. Microfund for Women launched a Campaign Commitment in 2015. Commitments are specific, measurable, and time-bound actions organizations take to support the Campaign goal to help 100 Million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. “It is in our mission to enable and empower women at so many levels,” says Alhyari. “We thought we need to be part of this Campaign and commit to act, encourage others to commit to act.” (Learn more here.)
Microfinance plays “a great role” to help end poverty, says Alyhari, because it enables the financially excluded to gain access to the financial system. “Eighty percent [of the world’s population] are not allowed to access finance. Microfinance provides them with financial resources to enable them to participate in the development of societies, of communities. They [beneficiaries and clients] take the money. They create businesses, they continue their learning, their education, to enable them to be part of the development cycle. Gradually this will help to better livelihoods.”
Finally, Alhyari reflects on her time at the 18th Microcredit Summit. “The Summit has brought so many different expertise from different parts of the world,” she says. “We have shown our experience in microinsurance [and], providing the caregiver program, and we heard about other examples in microinsurance, green energy, and so many other topics, [such as] youth. It was a good platform to have this exchange to look at the expertise of each other and learn from it.”
>> An interview with Larry Reed, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign by Miranda Beshara
The first Microcredit Summit was held in 1997 and called for a nine-year campaign to reach 100 million of the world’s poorest families. In 2005, the Campaign was re-launched until 2015. In 2016, where does the Microcredit Summit Campaign stand and how does the future look like?
At the Halifax Global Summit in 2006, the microfinance community set two new goals for the Campaign. First, to reach 175 million of the world’s poorest families with microfinance and, second, to see 100 million of the world’s poorest families move out of extreme poverty. Our latest numbers, from 2014, show we still have a lot of work to do to reach those goals. Much of the growth of microfinance in recent years has been with families that are not living in extreme poverty. We have focused our attention on the types of finance that reaches to the poorest families, and helps them limit vulnerabilities and take advantage of opportunities.