Significant support for micro-finance comes from the U.S. agency for International Development (USAID). USAID has been the leading bilateral donor of technical assistance and funds to MDOs since 1988, committing $158.7 million in 2001 and helping USAID-assisted MDOs serve more that 2.8 million loan clients and more than 3.5 million savings clients. “In 2001, the agency reported that it was conducting microenterprise projects in 52 Countries and had obligated almost $2 billion since 1988 to support its program. The program support micro loans, among other services, to assist poor entrepreneurs” (U.S. GAO 2003). A 2003 report on microenterprise Development to the U.S. general Accounting Office Found that the USAID’s four primary objectives were to reduce poverty, target the poor and the very poor, encourage participation by women (who have make up two-thirds of MFIs clients since 1997), and develop sustainable MFIs. These objectives focus on three key areas: advocating that host governments begin policy reforms to enhance MDOs, funding business development services in an effort to improve Microenterpreneurs business skills and develop markets for their microenterprises, and helping to fund and establish MDOs that provide loans and other financial services to the poor and the very poor. To accomplish its goals, USAID works through NGOs, constrictors, and , on occasion, directly with governments. Although nearly two-thirds of USAID’s microenterprise development funds in 2001 funded the creation and strengthening of credits and savings institution, the remaining one-third funded business development services and policy initiatives development and testing, marketing, technology, and business counseling.
The gender approach in Small Enterprise Development, a publication of the Swiss Agency for development and cooperation, advocates for gender sensitivity in four broad categories: legal (e. g., the need for approval of a male relative in business transactions); socio cultural, moral, and ethical (e. g., establishing patterns of behavior for women, including being bond to the house hold); women’s family and social obligations (e. g., grater workloads for women for women, limited mobility, and freedom of choice); and institutional constraints (e. g., lack of access to education, training, and dynamic economic sectors).
Microfinance organizations have the capacity to include education as a core part of their mission and positively influence gender imbalance. Included in the Sixteen Decisions of the Grameen bank are such principles a hard work, discipline, courage, and unity, Specific decision address family prosperity and planning, housing, food security, and sanitation issues. For example, decision 6 states, “We shall keep our families small. We shall minimize our expenditures. We shall look after our health” (Counts 1996).
Clearly, because most micro borrowers are women, government support for microfinance must include as outreach and implementation plan inclusive of gender issues.
- Counts, Alex. 1996. Give US credit, 347. New York: Random House