By Micah Sparacio
Over 80% of all the micro-finance loans on Kiva go to women. That’s a publicly stated fact. And it’s a testament to the uphill battle men face as they try to live productive, rewarding lives, especially those men trying to rise out of poverty.
It’s a basic psychological phenomenon that in the West it seems sexier and more hip to help women and children. If I had to guess, this is a socially magnified response to an evolved mandate: humans have adapted to respond to the needs of women and children before men, protecting what amount to more valuable sexual/reproductive biological resources.
Doesn’t matter. Fact is, most people are donating to women. And this leaves men behind.
As a successful, self-employed small-business owner, I owe a great deal of my success to the financial support of friends and family at those very early stages. I remember when just starting out how the biggest obstacle to realizing my business goals was financial leverage. And thankfully, while I didn’t have access to deep pockets (probably a blessing, as it forced me to focus on business fundamentals), I got just enough to bootstrap the business to the point where it could self-finance future projects. And within four years, I was living a comfortable, ownership-style life with over twenty employees. I was doing my thing. Carving my own path.
Contrast this with my experience directly out of college. After graduating, I started out in the corporate world as a software developer, working the 9-5 (with one hour commutes into the city each way). I was making good money. And I was miserable.
The contrast between that (being miserable working for others) and this (waking up every day and working on exactly what I enjoy) looms large in my mind. In my experience, there is no greater joy for a man than having full creative control over his daily work. Whether that’s as a carpenter, a cattle rancher, or an Internet marketer. And the best way to attain creative control, is to be the owner of your own business. Having experienced this liberating transition (from having a boss to becoming my own boss), I feel compelled to enable other men to have the same opportunities.
So I started exploring a variety of micro-finance sites and ultimately decided that given the great disparity of lending between genders (again, over 80% of microfinance loans seem to go to women), I would do my little part to help even that out and start lending to male entrepreneurs. I ended up going with Kiva, because they give me the best control over A) gender and B) project type (so if, like me, you have theories about the sort of projects that are most promising, you can choose to fund them).
Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert at microfinance or economics or social dynamics. I’m certainly not presumptuous enough to think that participating in microfinance is going to fix misandry. And, although I’ve chosen to go with Kiva, I am aware that there are some microfinancing systems where you can actually make a buck or two (interestingly, the one run by PayPal let’s you choose “women” as a social cause but not “men” – though a quick analysis also shows that the microfinance investments that are specific to women, on the whole, have lower average rates of returns than the ones that are gender neutral).
So, without having any illusions about solving the many social injustices that men face today, I do think that microfinance is one way that we can make a difference for the following reasons:
1. Many men around the world stand at a disadvantage to women in terms of having access to start-up capital, as noted by the 80/20 discrepancy at Kiva
2. Getting a good idea off the ground and transformed into a thriving business requires leverage, something the men of poor nations simply don’t have
3. Being a happy, productive man reaches it’s peak, I believe, in business ownership
In other words, microfinance allows us to truly help men utilize skill, pursue a vision, and attain the happiness and freedom of self-employment.