Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
In Kenya, Nest works with the Maisha cooperative to empower refugee girls and young women. Many of these young women were unable to finish school and are single mothers. Living in the refugee camps, with poor living standards, no doctors, and refugees dying of preventable diseases on a regular basis, they had little hope for their futures. Nest’s loan to the Maisha cooperative has resulted in a thriving business making a unique line of tie and dye scarves and a brighter future for the women. They are now able to pursue their dreams of going to school, supporting their families, and raising their children to be healthy and educated.
In Togo, Nest provides expanded opportunities in Kpalime, a region that suffers from a weak economy and struggles with unemployment, corruption, and poverty. In addition, there is a large population of orphans. In collaboration with the Peace Corps, Nest provided Chantal Dovinde with an interest-free microbarter loan and increased market access. Her batik business, Aklala Batik, is one of our many success stories. Now Aklala wishes to grow the business, allocating a portion of sales revenue to finance housing and training for orphans and underprivileged persons, while at the same time offering free training to aid in their independence and development.
Nest now has an opportunity to expand its work to Swaziland. There, Nest will be working with an environmentally and socially conscious cooperative called Quazi. Quazi employs women artisans who transform waste magazines into original accessories and interiors. In addition to providing a monthly fair wage salary, Quazi provides a supportive environment in which women are nurtured to become decision makers within and outside of work. Nest support means the cooperative can expand, providing more women with full-time employment.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
The innovation of the "microbartering" model can be seen both through its approach to microfinance as well as its lasting affect on the women it serves. First, Nest's loans are interest-free. By offering non interest-bearing loans, women are freed from cycles of debt. Women in developing countries face barriers to obtaining reasonably-priced loans to start or grow their businesses. Where loans are available, they often come with high interest rates that make it difficult to repay if a household member falls ill, an ecological calamity strikes, or an economic downturn occurs. By requiring cash repayment, recipients can get locked in a devastating spiral of borrowing. Second, our curriculum and education is specific to each cooperative to which we lend. The Nest curriculum is unique in that it imparts business skills while preserving artistic integrity and environmentally-sound production methods. Third, and what makes the model most unique, is our ability to simultaneously offer both access to financing and a guaranteed market. Most non-profit financing models or microcredit do not provide support beyond the initial loan or business education. The Nest model, and its implementation in Togo and Kenya, has offered comprehensive and complete support for women artisan entrepreneurs – from financing to marketing. Fourth, women who have undergone trauma such as trafficking or rape, often have fear, difficulty with trust and a lack of self-confidence that deters them from traditional lending models.