MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field

What does International Women’s Day mean to me?

Through the Garden Gate Afghanistan
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the third in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.

Catherine Sobrevega (center) in Afghanistan, with her previous MEDA’s project, Through the Garden Gate, in Afghanistan.

I always look forward to International Women’s Day (IWD) as it is celebrated differently in form and structure worldwide. In the Philippines, where I am from, I cannot remember any celebration that I have been part of. I am sure there is an IWD celebration somewhere, but it is mostly celebrated by women’s right activist groups — not by ordinary people or companies. This is likely because men and women treat one another equally. I grew up knowing that there is no difference between us – all of us can go to school, all of us have access to information and opportunities.

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Financial Inclusion for Young Women – Voices from YouLead Nigeria


Mark Akpan Program Manager Financial Inclusion
Financial Decisions by Gender
Asset ownership by gender
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the second in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.

How do you effectively reach a majority of people to discuss financial inclusion in Nigeria? Mark Akpan, Program Manager Financial Inclusion

Radio is the main source of news and information in Cross Rivers State, Nigeria. During my January 2017 visit to the YouLead project, implemented with Cuso International, Mark Akpan and I had the opportunity to visit Hit FM Cross River State to talk about Access to Finance for youth. We shared our understanding and approach towards addressing gender inequalities in this sector.

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Changing climate: changing risks, changing opportunities





To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development.This is the first in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.

Woman rice farmer in Myanmar

Climate change looms as a huge factor in poverty alleviation, and thus an issue MEDA is grappling with. It’s something that hits poorest people the hardest, since they have the fewest resources to prepare for and rebuild after climate shocks. The World Bank estimates it will push 100 million additional people into poverty by 2030. The United Nations says climate change is also a potential driver of conflict, a “threat multiplier.” Among its consequences: food riots and unrest triggered by spiraling prices; clashes between farmers over land and water; competing demands on dwindling water supplies for irrigation or for cities.

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An intern's journey home in Ghana

Learning the ropes to get around the capital Accra has been an interesting and rewarding experience. In a city that only recently started naming its streets, the locals still rely on landmarks, prominent buildings, and well-known spots. There’s something very rewarding about learning the name of an area, like you’re finally getting to know the city and the people. More importantly, it lets you communicate with the taxis and tro-tros.

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How one small business can change the lives of many

As the Business Development Intern on the FEATS project in Ghana, I had the opportunity to help an entrepreneur start a cashew aggregation business that will improve the lives of 250+ farmers and the lives of their families and communities. I supported this entrepreneur by developing the business strategy and operational plan to successfully and sustainably start his small business. In the process, I have learned a lot about the farming value chain and the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and farmers in a developing country like Ghana.

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Business to the Power of 2 at MiCrédito

Last week I had the opportunity to help MiCrédito welcome a MEDA Field Experience team to Nicaragua. As a MEDA intern, this was a chance to meet MEDA supporters from Canada and the United States, most of whom had never been to Nicaragua before. As I helped to interpret the management team’s presentation to our visitors, I felt proud to be involved in an institution that has had such an important impact on the lives of Nicaraguan micro-entrepreneurs. For me, MiCrédito’s work encapsulates the idea of MEDA’s “Business to the Power of 2” strategy. When the institution sees a need in the community, it uses enlightened business practices and entrepreneurial thinking to help people achieve their personal goals, thus building bridges out of poverty.

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Women Empowering Women with MEDA: Ghana

"It will never work! People are used to getting handouts – if you're not giving out free things, your project will fail."

This is the message that one of MEDA's project managers was met with when MEDA first proposed working with women farmers in Ghana. Five years later, MEDA's GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) project has reached over 20,000 women who now have nutritious food throughout the year and larger and improved farms. At our third Women Empowering Women meetings in Lancaster and Souderton, PA, we featured the GROW project and had the opportunity to hear from three MEDA supporters who recently returned from a MEDA Field Experience visit to the project. Joan Nathan, Rita Hoover and Lisa Gautsche said the following after seeing the project firsthand:

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Personifying Myanmar

After seven months of living in Myanmar, it was finally time to bid farewell. As I looked outside the car window on my lone taxi ride to the airport, a wave of emotion overcame me as I passed dainty teashops and mega shopping centres – the latter of which were only erected during my stay here. There and then, I couldn’t help but feel I was saying goodbye to a person, rather than a place. A person with a vibrant yet humble personality, a disposition full of surprises, and most importantly, potential. If anything, I was saying goodbye to a turbulent teenager budding to adulthood.

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Promoting Participation: Client Experience Interviews with MiCrédito

One of the projects that I am currently working on here in Nicaragua is a case study of MiCrédito’s social products. In the world of microfinance, these include products that are designed to meet the needs of clients belonging to specific social groups. MiCrédito targets women, youth, and rural communities through three innovative products: Women Entrepreneurship Loans, MiCrédiEstudios (Student Loans), and Sanitation Loans. Women Entrepreneurship loans support women who have a business idea, but not the capital, to build their first business. The MiCrédiEstudios product offers financing for the final two years of university education as well as funding options for youth entrepreneurship, equipment purchase, language courses, and further education through Masters and PhD programs. Finally, through its Sanitation product, MiCrédito provides low-interest loans designed to allow families to replace latrines with high-efficiency toilets, improving family health and hygiene. You can learn more about MiCrédito’s social products here.

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Cacophonous streets, soccer, good food: My life as an intern in Tanzania

I have officially been in Dar es Salaam as MASAVA’s newest intern for five weeks. Full disclosure: this is my first time to Tanzania, and indeed Africa. As is the case with any new adventure, being here is unbelievably exciting. I have battled the cacophonous streets markets in city center, sweated under the intense heat playing soccer, and traveled to an island closeby for some fresh fish and chips. Amidst all this fun, I’ve had the chance to learn about and take part in a very interesting project.

The purpose of the MASAVA Project is to tackle Vitamin A deficiency in rural Tanzania. 34% of Tanzanian children aged 6 – 59 months and 37% of women aged 15 - 49 are Vitamin A deficient due to inadequate diets. Consequently, they suffer from night blindness, weak immunity, and a host of other psychological and physical symptoms.

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One month in: Working with MiCrédito in Nicaragua

I am exactly one month into my internship with MEDA partner MiCrédito in Nicaragua and I have fallen in love with this country and its people! My first four weeks have been a whirlwind, but I am grateful for the diverse experiences, both personal and professional, that I have gained already. My days have been filled with everything from touring churches in colonial cities to visiting MiCrédito clients at their farms and businesses.

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Empowering Women and Girls through Sport


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FIFA’s U-17 Women’s World Cup was held in Jordan this past October. For the first time ever, these games were held in the Middle East and in a country that is currently surrounded by other nations experiencing much conflict and instability. In fact, the stadium in Irbid is mere miles away from the Syrian border and residents can often hear the sounds of bombs and artillery fire from across the border. I happened to have the good fortune to be in Jordan for the games and witness how young women footballers are regarded in a traditionally conservative part of the world. The experience was very emotional for me for a number of reasons.

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16 Days of Activism & the White Ribbon Campaign

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Today marks the beginning of two important global campaigns, 16 Days of Activism (Nov 25-Dec 10) and the White Ribbon Campaign (Nov. 25). Both global campaigns advocate for the eradication of gender-based violence and, broadly, the empowerment of women.

In GROW, our project in Ghana, the team engages with male gender activists to promote equity with respect to caregiving, fatherhood, and division of labor.

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Supporting Women-run Social Enterprises: Helping Entrepreneurs to Help their Communities

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Jacqueline Burge
Jennifer Mulli
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When is a trade fair more than a trade fair?

In September, Trade + Impact held its first Summit in Morocco, bringing together women-run social enterprises, international buyers and potential investors. The Summit featured products from two key sectors: handicrafts and agribusiness for cosmetics. These sectors were chosen because they employ significant numbers of women, and additionally, have huge growth potential. Markets for each of the sectors are estimated at USD 30 billion, and global demand is growing.

Like many sectors, handicrafts and natural cosmetics face significant barriers to profitability and growth. Structural barriers, such as tariffs and taxes on inter-African trade, present challenges. Reliability of shipping and transportation cause delays in deliveries and increased costs. In addition, these sectors are very fragmented, with large numbers of small producers working in relative isolation. Access to materials is an ongoing challenge, particularly sustainable materials. Producers working in handicrafts and cosmetics face challenges in accessing financing, and very few of those attending the Summit had ever accessed a loan, outside of money borrowed from friends or family members.

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#MEDACon16: A Convention to Remember

MEDA’s 2016 Convention, Business as a Calling: Women Changing the World, wrapped up just about two weeks ago. We’re not over the excitement quite yet, so we’re sharing some of our favorite moments from #MEDACon16 with you!
UnknownMEDA supporters take a river barge through downtown San Antonio
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What happens when a country doesn’t use banks - A look at how the world’s second last frontier economy functions on just cash.

When I first got off the plane at Yangon airport, jetlagged and exhausted from the 42 hour journey, what shocked me most was being handed a stack of 1,000 kyat ($1CAD) bills at the currency exchange - around 500 bills to be exact. Unable to stuff this into my wallet or fanny pack, I asked the currency exchange clerk if they had larger bills, to which she replied “We ran out.” 

The currency exchange counter at Yangon International Airport This was my first glimpse into the nearly non-existent banking services of Myanmar. They say that frontier economies develop in the following order; telecommunications, banking, power & hydro, and finally, consumer goods. While the internet connection is slowly starting to improve here and power cuts have dropped from an average of three times a day to just three times a week, the banking sector is still lagging behind. Decades of hyperinflation and mismanagement have made everyday citizens weary of using existing banks and financial institutions.

To the middle and upper class, the low utilization of banks presents certain problems. For example, large payments must be made in cash since checks cannot be processed without a checking account. An expatriate once recounted to me the story of the first time he prepaid rent – he loaded an entire taxi with cash, went to the landlord’s house, and waited for her to hand count all of it three times in the span of four hours. Getting all this cash isn’t easy, either. Another expatriate had to visit a local illegitimate businessman with a basement stuffed with cash and jewels in order to obtain enough cash to pay the lease on her newly purchased hotel.

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Convention 2016 - You're not gonna want to miss this.



Everything is bigger in Texas – including this year’s convention! This fall, MEDA is hosting Business as a Calling: Women Changing the World. What could be bigger than world-renowned speakers, fine dining, tours of cutting edge businesses and times for networking with emerging and seasoned leaders alike? Nothing of course!While the seasons are changing at home, jump back in time with us to sunshine and warm weather as you bask in the history, music and culture of San Antonio. The city’s famous Riverwalk and historic sites provide a premier backdrop for the festivities to come.

Among these festivities are a group of world-renowned speakers, women who will share about emerging topics at the intersection of faith and business. This year, we are ecstatic to hear from Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Sara Wenger Shenk, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary president and Sally Armstrong, winner of three Amnesty International Canada Media Awards.

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A Day in the Life of a MEDA Intern - Uganda

7:00 am

Rise and Shine!

The breathtaking view from my backyard in Kololo, Kampala. I live on a hill top, where there is fresh air, chirping birds and a view of the city of 7 hills. The sun shines through my windows every morning, so waking up is always a pleasure.

 

Chapati

Chapati is a fried pancake made with flour, water, and oil and cooked on an iron hot plate. These were from a chapatti stand in Jinja, Uganda. They are so good that I always have at least one every day!

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A Day in the Life of a MEDA Intern - Myanmar

7:00 am
Waking up!

This is the view outside of my bedroom window. To the right is the “Myanmar Plaza”; the largest shopping complex in Myanmar that opened just this year. To the left is Inya lake; a manmade reservoir built by the British when they colonized Yangon and named it “Rangoon”.

 7:30 amGetting Breakfast

This little joint is a quick walk from my office and only set up from 6-11am in the mornings. For 700 kyat ($0.7CAD) you can get a full breakfast!

 

Mohinga for breakfast

Mohinga is the most popular Burmese breakfast dish. Consisting of fish soup, rice noodles, deep fried chick pea crackers, coriander, mysterious crunch vegetables and a handful of chili flakes; it’s definitely one of my favorites.

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Wisdom from Wally: 19 Tips for a Fulfilling Life

Wally Kroeker is the editor of The Marketplace magazine, a bi-monthly MEDA publication. He recently passed the 30 year milestone as an employee of MEDA.

My grandson turned 16 this year and some members of my family invited me to pass on to him some of the secrets of my, uh, success.

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