When I travel to visit Opportunity International clients around the world, I am consistently inspired by their tenacity, courage and optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. I am reminded that while the nature of our work may technically be in financial services—providing loans, savings, insurance and training so that our clients can grow their businesses and provide for their families—our true purpose is to empower people to live their lives with dignity.
Today, this goal feels especially relevant as we celebrate Poverty Eradication Day with organizations around the world.
This year, we are considering how we address the humiliation and exclusion caused by poverty. Because as I’ve seen time and again, overcoming poverty is not just about economics. It’s about having confidence and independence. It’s about setting a positive example for your children. It’s about being a role model in your community. It’s about being the person you were meant to be.
When I visited clients in India, I was struck by countless stories of women trying to support their families before discovering Opportunity International. They spoke about local money lenders—men who would offer these women the funding they needed to keep their families afloat at remarkably high interest rates. And when our clients spoke about these dangerous money lenders, they used the same words over and over: exploitation, humiliation, abuse.
They cited the very themes that Poverty Eradication Day has pushed into the limelight this year.
Without safe, fair financial services from Opportunity, our hard-working clients were forced to receive capital from men that would physically and mentally assault them for repayments. In addition to the existing challenges of their living conditions and affording their daily needs, they were excluded from the traditional economy, humiliated and abused. They were ostracized from their communities, simply because they didn’t have the resources or social position to receive an honest loan.
Hearing these stories reminded me just how significant a simple loan or savings account can be. Offering women the opportunity to take control of their financial future gives them life-changing funding and unprecedented independence. Armed with a loan and a dream, a woman can enter the formal economy, build a business and begin to work toward her goals. She can stand on her own two feet, often for the first time ever.
As I experienced in India, and in many of the other 24 countries in which Opportunity International works, poverty is about so much more than a lack of material resources. I am honored to work alongside incredible men and women around the world addressing the multifaceted needs of those living in unimaginable situations. And today, on Poverty Eradication Day, I invite you to join us in the fight to end poverty by going to give.opportunity.org to see how you can give the gift of opportunity and change someone’s life forever.