Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Featured Partner: Hekima, a Partner of World Relief

Sam Kendall, Review and Translation Program Intern


Kiva field partner since: March 2010

Loans through Kiva : $617, 850

Number of Entrepreneurs assisted through Kiva : 31, 761

Focus : "To contribute to the transformation of the economic, social, and spiritual lives of the economically active poor of the Democratic Republic of Congo as a sustainable, innovative microfinance institution of the highest quality."

Hekima operates in the Kivu regions of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and has branch offices in Goma , Bukavu and Kavumu . Founded in 2003 as a program of World Relief Congo, Hekima became an independent institution in July 2007. Today it operates throughout the two Kivu regions working only with female borrowers.

Group to Individual Loans

Hekima focuses on group loans because they believe it’s the most effective way to educate entrepreneurs of the region on microlending . Clients can work their way up to larger loans once they’ ve established a good history, and recently Hekima has graduated clients to individual loans. The first individual loan was this year, to a female merchant in Goma .

Disasters: Man-Made and Natural

The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the epicenter for much of the countries violence. Wracked by civil war, rebel armies and militias, and refugee movements, DRC is estimated to have lost more than 2 million people in the two Congo wars from 1996 to 2004, of which many have been in the two Kivu provinces in which Hekima works. Unfortunately this violence is not the only disaster to strike the region. In 2002 Mt. Nyiragongo erupted, destroying part of the city of Goma , one of the largest urbanized areas in the region, as a stream of lava 100 to 200 meters wide and two meters deep flowed through Goma . Fifteen percent of the city was destroyed and 120,000 people were left homeless. Once the eruption stopped, a swarm of earthquake activity began, causing the collapse of even more buildings for the next three months. The region has been trying to recover from this disaster, all the while dealing with the regional violence.

Focusing on Women

Hekima works only with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A large number of women from the region are poor working widows who are not only supporting their own families, but also supporting children that have been orphaned by conflict and natural disaster. Though this makes it at times more difficult, Hekima believes that putting economic resources into the hands of local women is the best way to alleviate poverty in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Loans for Teachers Help Students Stay in School

Hekima has created a loan product directed specifically at teachers. In the region, teachers’ salaries are so low that they often have to find supplemental income from other jobs, which causes them to spend less time in the classroom. They offer a “Teaching Loan” designed specially for teachers to allow them enough to live on without having to work other jobs outside of the classroom.

This product decreases the number of parents pulling kids out of school because it decreases teachers dependency on parents paying school fees in one lump sum at the beginning of the semester or school year. This allows the parents a longer time to pay school fees, and stops parents from pulling their children out of school due to the inability to pay those fees.