THE BLOG
03/08/2012 11:00 am ET | Updated May 08, 2012

International Women's Day in the Participation Age

Throughout the month of March, millions of people worldwide will celebrate the 101st International Women's Day, marking the second century of such celebrations. While many gains have been made, many challenges remain.

Almost three billion adults worldwide are unbanked or under-banked -- and most are women. Without access to resources to attend school or grow a business, their potential and dreams are far too often wasted. This affects us all.

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said just a few months ago, "A rising tide of women in an economy raises the fortunes of all families and all nations ... we don't have a person to waste and we certainly don't have a gender to waste."

Imagine a day when no woman is too remote to tell her story to an online global community of people who want to participate in her success as she lifts her family, her community and her nation out of poverty. That day is within reach.

As we embark on this second century of International Women's Day, new technologies are ushering in what Clinton calls a "Participation Age," in which every individual, regardless of gender or location, is poised to become a contributing and valued member of their economy. Rapid expansion of Internet access and the growth of mobile banking are empowering more women entrepreneurs, even in the world's most remote villages, to connect with a global network of lenders.

In honor of International Women's Day, Kiva has launched Kiva.org/women to spotlight the power of women to create sustainable change when everyday people lend their support. In partnership with Kiva, Dermalogica's joinFITE program is funding a $100,000 Kiva Women free trial program. Free trials enable new users of Kiva.org to direct a $25 loan to the woman borrower of their choice.

The promise of women's financial freedom to transform lives and economies is not just in the hands of governments and humanitarian organizations. It is also in the hands of everyday people like you and me, who for as little as $25 can help crowdfund loans for specific women to jumpstart their small business or begin their education.

Through our collective actions, we can change the lives of millions of women and ensure that the Participation Age truly shines in every corner of the globe.

Premal Shah is President of Kiva