Thursday, April 25, 2013

Core Course Uses Kiva to Connect Students to Concepts in MicroFinance

For the last three semester’s, Nancy Udolph’s International Perspectives on Women course has extended microloans to women from other countries through Kiva, a non-profit organization which connects lenders to borrowers to improve living conditions and alleviate poverty.  

Professor Udolph, who specializes in international social work, connects students with Kiva to help them see principles in microfinance in action, which Kiva defines as a general term for “financial services to low-income individuals to to those who do not have access to typical banking services.  [It’s] also the idea that low-income individuals are capable of living themselves out of poverty if given access to financial services.” (Learn more about Kiva).

Through the women lent to through Kiva, themes emerge relating to women all around the world.  “If women have their own money, it increases their respect in their families and communities.  It helps [students] see how a small amount of money can really help someone in another country,” Udolph said.

Each semester, the class chooses a woman and a loan through Kiva’s website, which provides information about the borrower such as family size, occupation, and yearly income, how the money will be used, and how receiving the loan will make a difference in the borrower’s life.    

This semester, students chose to sponsor Zhuzhanna, a woman in Ukraine, who requested a loan to repair her home and improve her family’s living conditions.  Udolph credits the decision to loan to Zhuzhanna to the students’ understanding of the impact of living conditions on overall quality of life, a concept studied in the course. 

In previous semesters, students have opted to invest in and follow the journey of two women in Uganda, Betty and Annette, who each sought a loan to expand her business and improve her economic situation.  

The use of Kiva allows students to connect with a real person and to see how the concepts in women’s and gender issues affect real people.  It also provides an opportunity for students to not only observe the impact of microfinance on economic stability but to be a part of that impact. 

By investing in women around the world through Kiva, like Zhuzhanna, Betty and Annette, students can “be a part of the concepts they’re learning about.  They watch it in action.  They own it,” said Udolph, so much that students still ask about Betty or Annette semesters later.  “Several students wanted to know about the progress of the loan.  They e-mail me and ask for updates.”

International Perspectives on Women, is a core Social Sciences and GPS course and is offered each semester. Register for this Course. 

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