MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates)

May 14, 2009 12:25 ET

MEDA Invites Canadians to Create Hope for Women, Their Families and Communities With Afghanistan Challenge

Innovative microfinance program empowers women in war-torn nation

WATERLOO, ONTARIO and OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 14, 2009) -

Attention: News, Assignment, Ottawa Bureau & Business editors

A mere $200 micro-loan is all it took to change the life of Sharifa and her daughter, forever. The villager in Afghanistan, struggling to survive in this war-torn area, used the loan to invest in a rug loom and weaving supplies. She was soon able to hire other women weavers, freeing up her young daughter to finally go to school.

As Sharifa pays back her loan - micro-finance repayment rates are nearly 100 per cent - she can borrow more to expand her business. She never thought of herself as a role model, but she is now advising other women in the region, with a long tradition of rug weaving, to take control of their lives, too. This is lasting change in a part of the world where women are struggling to be heard.

Today, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) announced that it is partnering with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and three other NGOs to help rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan with the Afghanistan Challenge (www.afghanistanchallenge.ca), helping more women rebuild their communities.

The Afghanistan Challenge is about small donations allowing four Canadian organizations already on the ground in Afghanistan to make a real and sustained difference. MEDA is focused on helping enterprising Afghan women -- many are widows -- and their families by providing micro-finance loans and basic business training. Economic empowerment will not only help them feed and clothe their family, but also send their children to school, earning respect both within their family and in the community.

"Hope is far too rare a commodity yet I see hope in the eyes of these women. A good future for themselves and their children is now a possibility," explains Kim Pityn, Vice-President, International Operations for MEDA. "MEDA and the Afghanistan Challenge will enable women to help other women, to build communities and networks of trust."

Every dollar donated to MEDA for the Afghanistan Challenge will be matched by CIDA until 2012.

Donors are invited to visit www.medatrust.ca where they will have two options to donate by either making a straight donation or by creating a portfolio and direct donations to a loan for an Afghan woman, and follow that loan as she repays it. As the loan is repaid, that money is credited to the donor's portfolio so it can be re-invested with other entrepreneurial women. As one loan is repaid, another small business entrepreneur benefits!

About MEDA

Founded in 1953, MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) is headquartered in Waterloo, Canada and has pioneered business solutions to the eradication of poverty in more than 45 developing countries. MEDA's innovative program range provides microfinance services for the poor, access to markets for small producers, and technical services to promote investment in businesses and institutions that serve the poor. In 2007, MEDA served more than 2.2 million clients in collaboration with 127 organizations worldwide. For more information, go to www.meda.org

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