Friday, August 3, 2012

Week In Review: The Olympics gives women an even playing field to "go for the gold"

From pubs to palaces, the international community has come together this past week to cheer on the exemplary athletes participating in the Olympic Games. Even here at Kiva, we are joining in on the fun with our very own Kiva Games! As we tune in to watch these athletes compete, it's hard not to get caught up in their personal stories -- which got us thinking, what it is like to be a woman athlete from various countries around the globe?

It's fitting that Save the Children recently released a study on the "Best and worst places to be a women in the world." The researchers examined health, education, and economic status of women in 165 countries. To determine the rankings they looked at amongst others, these key performance indicators:

- Life expectancy at birth
- Expected number of years in school
- Ratio of male to female earned income

Separated into tiers of most, less, and least developed countries, Norway ranked as the best place to be a woman, while Somalia came in last.

But the Olympic Games provides a platform where, no matter where you are from, the challenges you face, or the social and economic barriers you encounter, everyone is on the same playing field. It doesn't matter if you're from Costa Rica or Comoros, every athlete has the opportunity to go for the gold.

Goksu Uctas is the first gymnast from Turkey to ever compete in the Olympic Games. And her path to success has not been an easy one. Hailing from the southeast city of Gaziantep, she fell in love with the sport at five-years-old and learned her technique on a dilapidated four-inch balance beam.

After an earthquake rendered her family homeless when she was nine, her family spent a year living in a refugee camp. While there, she practiced her gymnastics routine outside of the tent they lived in. Today, she trains at the Genclik Merkezi club has put gymnastics on the map for Turkey. 

Tahmina Kohistani, competing in the 100-meter sprint, is Afghanistan's only female competitor at the Olympics. As a Muslim woman, she has overcome the tremendous challenges of trail blazing in a patriarchal society. On a daily basis, hundreds of men crowd around Kabul Stadium and hurl insults at her while she trains.

Her strength to continue her training stems from a life of uncertainty. Her family escaped the Taliban regime by living in Pakistan before returning to Kabul, where she often trains with bomb blasts in the distance. A runner for the past eight years, she has proudly represented Afghanistan at the world championships in Poland and Turkey.

The Olympics provides a platform to celebrate physical achievements in the same way that Kiva provides a platform for entrepreneurs to strive for economic sustainability. And, recognizing that each athlete got to the Olympics through hard work and the support of their families, trainers and country, we encourage you to support aspiring entrepreneurs to achieve their own dreams.

Through Kiva, we can all connect with and help support entrepreneurs just like the the Olympic athletes. You can even try out Kiva for free if you lend to a woman at

Photos courtesy of The New York Times and U.K. Telegraph.