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Loans for change

A little help can go a long way when it comes to helping poor women to get ahead

Joanne Morton

Ibu Yuliana collects cassava for breakfast every morning
Joanne Morton

Ibu Yuliana and her family live in the rural village of Lempo in Tana Toraja. Her days remain busy even though her four adult children now live away from home. She and her husband are subsistence farmers, and grow their own rice, coffee and vegetables. They produce enough to put food on the table but seldom enough to make a profit, so they rely on their eldest son to send them money to supplement their income. Like most of Indonesia’s low income population, this means that it is almost impossible for them to save money to cover large expenditures such as education for all their children.

But things looked up for Ibu Yuliana last year when she was among a group of women who received a National Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM) loan from the local government. Most micro credit programs focus on income-generating activities, but PNPM loans are very flexible. Ibu Yuliana used her share to finance home improvements and pay her three daughters’ fees at a local university. She then pays back the loan from the money she receives from her son every two months.

The PNPM program

PNPM is a national government program that was initiated in 2007 with the aim of alleviating poverty through

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