The Universal Truth of Women Empowerment

    - Oikocredit has Unveiled the Initial Results of an International Women
    Empowerment Study

    AMERSFOORT, The Netherlands, June 12 /CNW/ - At Oikocredit, it's
essential to know exactly how fair finance affects the lives of those it
serves. In the first phase of an international study covering four countries
(Bulgaria, Kenya, Peru and the Philippines) Oikocredit has examined the notion
of fair financing and women empowerment.
    Using in-depth interviews, we asked what women empowerment means to our
microfinance clients. What is it, how does it work and what does it look like?
Is the concept a notion of the North? Or is it genuinely relevant to the small
entrepreneurs of the South?
    The empowerment and advancement of women is part of Oikocredit's bid to
closely evaluate social performance. We wish to know the real life effect of
microfinance on standards of living: access to education, health and general
household impact.
    Oikocredit board president Shobha Arole said the study was the first step
towards ensuring the organization's contribution to women empowerment through
its field work.
    "A lack of access to basic education, economic and property rights means
70 per cent of the world's poor are female," Dr Arole said. "These are the
groups who are marginalized, victims of violence and vulnerable in every sense
of the word."
    With this inequality, few women have the opportunity to take their first
steps out of poverty. However, Oikocredit sees the empowerment of women as
fundamental in achieving sustainable development and alleviating poverty on an
individual, family and community level.
    Furthermore, with economic empowerment comes social empowerment. Access
to credit gives women confidence, skills, respect and social status.
    Dutch minister for development Bert Koenders said empowerment of women is
at the heart of development. "Economic empowerment and women's rights are
interdependent. Each reinforces the other," he said. "By making use of their
economic skills and qualifications, we will build a stronger foundation for
long-term economic growth and contribute to greater equality between men and
women. This is what I am working for. (Oikocredit is) working for the same
    For a picture of Princess Maxima - who received the first copy of the
women's empowerment report 10 June, the video message of Dutch Minister Bert
Koenders and the translations of this press release, visit
    At the conclusion of the first phase of Oikocredit's women empowerment
study, results show no matter where you're from, no matter what you do, the
empowerment of women is a vital consequence of fair finance. In the context of
microfinance, the report summarizes women empowerment as the "progress of
women in their ability to make choices and become self-reliant, facilitated by
the availability of microfinance". Although the concept remains a dynamic one,
it carries a universal social and economic definition.
    In a time of economic doubt and uncertainty in the world, it's imperative
we answer questions on the reality of microfinance's role in poverty
alleviation and empowerment.
    The results of the Women's Empowerment study will be presented and
discussed at Oikocredit's symposium "Empowering Women - The Oikocredit
Experience" on June 11 to an expected crowd of over 700 people. The results
will be the basis for further case studies in coming years.

For further information:

For further information: Juliette de Voogd, Department Corporate
Communication on +31(0)33-422-40-40 or by email

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