CNN Photos

Empowering women through microcredit

Ligaya Domingo, a 70-year-old farmer in the Philippines, received her first microcredit loan in 1990, just after a magnitude-7.7 earthquake killed more than 1,600 people in the country. It allowed her to continue to make a living and sustain her family.

Photographer Pep Bonet has been documenting the transformational effects of small loans, which are often provided without collateral or credit history, on poor women around the world since 2010.

“I’ve met a lot of strong women with very good energy,” he said.

The project began in South America as an assignment for Treball Solidari, a nongovernmental agency working to improve living conditions through microcredit programs.

But Bonet felt the issue was worthy of a more detailed, global look. With help from the agency, he was awarded a grant to continue his work. At that point, he decided to focus on women whose lives had changed after receiving one of these loans.

He has now been to nine countries on three continents, recently returning from Bangladesh. A print exhibit of the resulting images is scheduled to open May 1 at Casal Solleric in Palma, Mallorca.

During his travels, Bonet met many women who embraced the microcredit financial model to stand on their own and provide for their families. But it’s certainly not a cure-all.

“People don’t get rich with this,” he said. “It’s a small solution on a very big scale.” The loans do, however, provide resources – both financial and emotional – to generate previously unfathomable income.

And because these women are living in very rural locations, microcredit provides one of the only honest ways to fund their business endeavors. Some cultivate crops and raise livestock. Others own beauty shops or restaurants, teach, or make clothes or rugs.

A noticeable confidence was seen in these women, Bonet said. He observed how they became stronger and more independent. Through communal organizations, many were now standing up for their rights and the rights of other women.

“A very small difference (can make) a positive change in your life,” he said.

- Matthew Rond, CNN

Bio photo courtesy Joana Pinar.