I have been reading and learning about various of issues in international development by myself for about two months now. One week, one issue. This week, I’m learning about Microfinance.

Microfinance is a general term to describe financial services to low-income individuals or to those who do not have access to typical banking services. There are now about 3,000 microfinance institutions (MFIs) in operation around the world with 100 million clients. Many of these clients are from the poorest countries in the world. In 2006 the most famous MFI, Grameen Bank (and its charismatic founder, Muhammad Yunus), won the Nobel Peace Prize. Many MFIs have a dual mandate – to create viable FIs, and to alleviate poverty. The success of these institutions demonstrates that low-income individuals are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty if given access to financial services.

I watched a TED speech given by Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, talking about her experience and the world first one-to-one microlending online service. I’m deeply touched.

Grameen Trust has several microfinance projects going on in my home Sichuan. I hope I can check them out and learn more when I go back in late January.