/** headlines: 134.0 **/
** Topic: MRA: Women's Program ** ** Written 7:16 AM Aug 18, 1997 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 5:41 AM Aug 16, 1997 by DEBRA@OLN.comlink.apc.org in hrnet.development */
/* ---------- "MRA: Women's Program" ---------- */
Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network
## author : devel@VITA.ORG
## date : 31.07.97
Like most international development organizations these days, VITA encourages equal participation of women in activities that improve the quality of their lives and those of their families. But in Morocco, VITA is learning that this goal can present challenges.
"From its beginnings six months ago, VITA's Micro Finance Activity here in Morocco was designed to give men and women microentrepreneurs equal access to credit," says Paul Rippey, the project director. Although the total number of loans (500) is ahead of schedule, the proportion given to women (6%) has been disappointingly low.
Why are so few women getting loans? Rippey replies: "Our first location, the city of Fez, is one of the more traditional Moroccan cities, where women's economic independence is very limited. Moreover, women tend to work mostly at home with other family members. They have trouble assembling the solidarity group of five nonrelated members, which is a project requirement for the extension of loans."
The design of the project was sensitive to norms that inhibit the par- ticipation of women. For example, the Moroccan Code of Personal Status regulates the status of women in the family. It places them under the tutorship of their father or husband and limits their control over or ownership of household properties. The VITA design team used surveys and interviews with men and women to inform them about program goals and participation. Rippey believes the program design was basically correct, but now needs adjustments based on experience.
"We have hired more female credit agents: six of our 18 credit agents are now women. We also have reduced the minimum loan from $100 to $50. These changes will make it easier for women borrowers to get their hus- bands' support for the loans they need." The project is also working more closely with women's nongovernmental organizations and talking to both male and female clients about increasing the number of women who might benefit from project services. Finally, it has changed its slogan from "Our clients are hard working, honest, capable, and committed" to "Our clients, men and women, are hard working, honest, capable, and committed."
"We believe that these efforts will pay off and are confident that as the project matures it will gradually extend more loans to women. Next week we will open a new office in Marrakech," says Rippey. "Reports from our credit agents there indicate that about 20% of the first applicants will be women."
Information: Barbra Bucci <email@example.com>.