The Koret Foundation’s microfinance program in Israel passed a significant milestone in June, facilitating its 1,000th loan, to a Bedouin woman so she could purchase sheep to produce dairy products.
The microloan brought total lending through this program to more than $1 million. Loans range in size from $1,000 to $2,500. Since the program’s inception, only 2.6 percent of loans have suffered default, well below the worldwide 5 percent average in microlending.
Koret Israel Economic Development Funds established Sawa (the Arabic word for “together”) three years ago, with the goal of helping Israel’s most challenged population — Bedouin women of the Negev — create independent, income-generating activities.
Among the many recent Sawa loan recipients is a 31-year-old woman who was married at the age of 14 and the mother of eight children by the age of 22. After years of abuse and suffering, she divorced and left her husband’s home, setting up house for herself and her children near her family’s home. Despite her efforts, her home was never given building approvals and eventually was demolished. Since she was homeless, social services took her children from her.
The woman clung to her dream to build a better life for herself and her children. She turned to Koret and received a loan and technical assistance to develop her own business, baking and selling Bedouin pita bread. She now is starting to earn a living, and dreams of one day establishing a traditional Bedouin restaurant and having her children return home.
Daycare centers, convenience stores, hair salons and clothing boutiques have been established by Bedouin women assisted by Koret. Through Sawa, Koret has proven that microcredit can be an effective tool in alleviating poverty.
KIEDF was established in 1994 by the Koret Foundation of San Francisco, and has facilitated more than $200 million in financing to approximately 7,300 small and micro-businesses in Israel.
KIEDF launched the Microenterprise Initiative in 2006 (of which Sawa is one program) to help disadvantaged populations create independent, income-generating activities. Sawa was created in partnership with the Olivestone Trust and is supported by foundations and donors from the United States, Europe and Canada.