By Mohammed Al-Shawaf, KF9 Palestine
Recently, Kiva’s been engulfed in controversy over how it presents its Person-to-Person lending platform–a convenient shorthand for the reality on the ground or a more draconian attempt to mislead the casual lender? I will not weigh in on this specific debate because there is already a rich dialogue that has taken place. However, I have noticed that a theme in some of the posts and responses has been to lament the limitations of P2P lending today.
In this equation, the microfinance institutions (MFIs) servicing the loans have been regarded as indispensable, but still undesirable middlemen between Kiva lenders and borrowers. I can’t fault that view. On the Kiva website, MFIs have partner pages that explain their missions. But Kiva, above all, is a place that connects people and only in borrower and lender profiles can you learn what motivates individuals to engage in microfinance.
With that in mind, I asked employees at Ryada, the MFI I’m working with in Palestine, to finish the following prompt: I work in microfinance because…
Note that responses from the four branches have been translated from Arabic to English (thanks, Dad) and that the answers are more specific to why they work at Ryada. Nevertheless, I hope this brings about a deeper understanding of the people often forgot about in discussions of Person-to-Person lending.
“I want to help the poor. I want to help the Palestinian people.” Lina Nasr, Admin Assistant, Ryada HQ
“’Microfinance is not a magic ticket out of poverty, but it can help both the loan receiver as well as the loan giver. ‘” Anonymous
“It is the tool for ending poverty.” Alaa Sisalem, Program Director, Ryada HQ
“I love it.” Reem Al-Sheikh, Kiva Coordinator, Ryada HQ
“Micro Finance is a major tool in poverty alleviation, helps in improving the living conditions for the low income people. It also protects the poor by providing them with diversified service they will never be able to afford through any other alternatives such as micro insurance . I love to see a smile on the faces of these needy people who really reached a point they think they lost the hope of everything , the doors are closed in front of them and you support them to continue their dreams and to proof that everybody has the right to dream and have hope.” Izz Tawil, Operations Manager, Ryada HQ
“For 9 years, I worked in different areas, mostly at NGOs. They play an important role in helping people, specifically when there is a crisis or the individuals are very poor. But there is a need for microfinance in our society—it is a sustainable sector that also has a social agenda.” Nadin Zaghal, Finance & Administration Manager, Ryada HQ
“To improve my income and my family’s income. I also see it as a successful institution that can guarantee me good and sustainable income.” Hasan Abdat, Loan Officer, Nablus
“[Ryada is] a successful program that provides dignified living and work stability and/or continuation.” Sawsan Azem, Admin Assistant, Nablus
“When an individual successfully performs a job and continues with it , that individual has complete confidence in that work and its goals and it’s banner. I’m totally convinced in Ryada’s goals, where I have been working for the past 5 years, because of its humanitarian and social services.
Theses goals and/or services are providing middle and lower income families opportunities to improve their standard of living and providing better housing and/or new housing via the loan programs.
Also the loans that provide for [business] developments at the same time enhance personal income and with that we can participate in improving the economic condition of our society.
Hard, united work and our perseverance kept us going despite all the circumstances that we went through and our ability to persevere and move forward regardless of it all was an incentive to continue work and improve on it.
Good admin support, and the support that team members give to each other which resemble a united family are important reasons which strengthened our ties to the organization, and contribute to our continuity and improvements.” Alaa Dbari, Site Engineer, Gaza
“To achieve a dignified life for me and my family. To help families and small business people to improve their lives. To have a distinctive role in developing peoples’ lives and their working conditions. To explore and expand peoples’ experiences and abilities in projects that will pay back in benefits to them and the society.” Yousef Abu Assida, Loan Officer, Nablus branch
“To provide services to the society with regard to projects, housing and others. To improve conditions.” Gaza branch
“It’s a job I held before. To improve my financial condition.” Suhair Atari, Admin Assistant, Jenin Branch
“It’s a credible organization with good reputation. I’m proud to be a part of it. I hope that I can bare the responsibilities put on me and provide my services to the organization. Ryada gave us a lot and we are obligated to give back to it what we can.” Ramallah branch
“To achieve Ryada’s goals. We aspire to be a well known organization in the market. To bring financial sustainment to its workers.” Ali Thekri, Branch Manager, Ramallah branch
“1- It serves the Palestinian local society and contributes to its development.
2- It has a long history and service in Palestine.
3- It contributes in reducing high unemployment via borrowers loans. A place to find work (at Ryada).
4- Contributed in solving part of the housing problem in Palestine.
5- The internal polices of the institution is fixable and can be changed and improved according to the general situation of the Palestinians.
6- It will be transformed to a Palestinian institution.” Nabil Khyal, Loan Officer, Gaza branch
“When I first started working I did not know the organization, just like any other member in our society. Now I’m very proud to be part of it. Ryada expanded and developed with time and kept on going despite all challenges. Ryada faced difficulties and stood fast and now it’s a Palestinian institute that achieved what many other institutions failed to achieve. We grew up with it and now it’s part of our life. We give to it and it gives back to us.
I’m proud to belong to this kind of an institute. For me personally, this is not just talk, I belong to Ryada which is a pioneering institute in every aspect.” Tulkarem branch
Join the lending team Palestine and help us reach the 100 member mark by year’s end!
Follow Mohammed’s experiences in Palestine on Twitter @moshawaf