One of the original goals of the Masomboly project was to build a community of women based on a spirit of entrepreneurship. Our success so far has been humbling, because all it has taken is a simple faith in the ability of the poor to help themselves, given a chance. This is, at its core, the real innovation of micro-lending.
But, on my recent trip to Madagascar, I was struck by another aspect of the group we are creating: it is incredibly diverse.
If you have a chance to browse our website, www.opportunitysolutions.org, you will see that we have added a filtering feature that allows users to choose women that meet certain criteria like education level, number of children, etc.
We have diversity in age:
Jacopy Patricia Ravaniaina is just 16 years old. She is still in school, but she wants to use the loan to buy and resell trinkets in the market on weekends. Then we have 73 years old Charlotte Helene Razaimalala. She sells firewood in the market. In a country where the life expectancy for women is only 64 years, I imagine the 73 year old Charlotte carrying her armfuls of firewood to market each day.
We have diversity in businesses:
We have pig farmers like Maminirina Rakotovao, and seamstresses like Marcelline Ratalata. We have fruit vendors like Lantanirina Olga Razafimaharo and shop owners like Rasoarimalala Florentine. We have women selling gold, furniture, batteries, honey, chickens, rice, used clothing and even baking cakes.
And it goes on from there: we have women who are single, divorced, widowed and married. From completely illiterate to university-educated. From no children at all to one woman who has 8.
For me, this is an exciting part of our project. Masomboly is acting simply as a catalyst, bringing together these poor women and creating a diverse entrepreneurial community.
They are the ones who are out there doing the real work, building better lives for themselves and their families.