March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD) a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. IWD has occurred for well over a century, and for the past decade, St. Paul based World Encounter celebrates and honors IWD – everyday!

Every day, World Encounter, goes to work to empower women and decrease the opportunity gap found globally, but especially prevalent in third world countries.

World Encounter, a St. Paul based NGO, provides microloans, coaching and support to women entrepreneurs in Tanzania, Africa. This microloan program is setup a bit differently than many microloan services. In order to receive a microloan, women have to form a lending-circle of ten women entrepreneurs who agree to run their separate businesses and support each other over a three-year lending period.

The strength of the relationships formed in the lending-circles is the backbone of the initiative; if one woman can’t make a payment, members of her circle will chip in to cover her. Since the beginning of the World Encounter microloan program in 2008, the circles have paid back 100% of their loans impacting nearly 3,000 women.

World Encounter partnered with HERO Plumbing, Heating & Cooling to send Emily and Robb Conroy to the Singida Region. They conducted over 30 interviews with women who completed the microloan program or are currently in it, and 100% of the women said that without the lending circles support, they don’t know if they would have succeeded.

Upon returning from Tanzania, Emily Conroy stated, “Seeing first-hand the economic impact these women have made on their villages was impressive. We toured new homes, businesses and schools, all built from profits of businesses started during the microloan program. We also met healthy and happy families who can afford school tuition, food, clothes, shoes, solar panels and medical care. But while photographing these women, it was the confidence, happiness and positive self-esteem I witnessed that made me wholeheartedly believe that World Encounter is truly empowering these women and changing lives.”

World Encounter believes that we need to work together to share knowledge and resources to empower women locally and globally. Women create change by investing their business profits back into their family and their communities. And as people across the world celebrate International Women’s Day, World Encounter will continue to fight for women and empower women in not only Tanzania, but Minnesota and globally as well. We ask you to consider getting involved with World Encounter or another organization serving women, because together, we can thrive and create a better tomorrow for our future female leaders.

To learn more about World Encounter or to get involved, continue to explore our website. We suggest reading about the first entrepreneur Emily & Robb Conroy met on their visit to Tanzania, Grace  Kyuzu: .

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