Friendship Bridge's Microcredit Plus program combines small loans (microloans) with non-formal, participatory education. Through Friendship Bridge's Microcredit Plus program, women form groups
of 7-25 members called Trust Banks. Each Trust Bank elects its own officers, creates business
plans together, co-guarantees individual member's loans, and
participates in the non-formal education sessions that are part of every monthly loan repayment meeting. The monthly meetings foster a learning environment, not only through non-formal education offered by Friendship Bridge loan officers, but, more importantly, from the women learning from and supporting each other.
Friendship Bridge's average loan size is $300 and loan terms are 4-12 months, with a 2% monthly flat interest rate. Friendship Bridge clients expand small businesses such as weaving, embroidery, raising livestock or poultry, basket making, roadside vending, or growing fruits and vegetables for sale at the local markets.
As clients are with Friendship Bridge over time, many of them also start additional businesses. Profits from the women's businesses boost overall household income, as well as self-esteem. As loans are repaid, they are re-loaned. The benefits of microcredit include:
• A greater ability to weather economic shocks, such as illness or natural disaster
• Decreased malnutrition
• Decreased spousal abuse
• Improved hygiene and health care
• Increased number of children attending school, especially girls
• Increased support, camaraderie, and self-esteem among borrowers
• Increased level of family planning (borrowers are 50% more likely
to have fewer children)
Trust Bank Leadership
Each Trust Bank elects an executive committee that includes a president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary, and sometimes an at-large member. Elections are held at the beginning of each loan cycle. This elected group is responsible for the management and leadership of the group. They problem solve when there are attendance or repayment issues with individual members, they work with the facilitator (loan officer) to conduct effective meetings, and they handle banking (make deposits into and withdrawals out of their account) on behalf of the group.