Christine Savino is the founder of Her Global Initiative, a microfinance organization that empowers women to start and/or maintain businesses. Christine is a UConn student who is changing the lives of thousands of women in developing countries. We chatted with her to find out what inspires her, why education is the key to empowerment and the hardest part of her journey.
Meet Christine & Her Global Initiative
70% of the 1.3 billion impoverished people in the world are female. This means some 0.9 billion women reside in third world countries where they are denied the same social and economic rights as men.
One of the key issues these women face is that they are too often denied the right to economic self-sufficiency. Although many want to start a business and improve their own future rather than relying on charity, banks typically will not lend to them, and if they do, they charge great amounts of interest. The average lending rate in Uganda, for example, stands at 23%. For most this is not viable, so they decide either to give up on any hopes of entrepreneurism, or become victims of loan sharks who only land them in deeper poverty.
Her Global Initiative gives these women their own hopes of success and offers them a chance to be self-sufficient through education and microcredit. It operates internationally and focuses heavily on developing Uganda as it offers the lowest rate microcredit loans in the country.
The organization educates, mentors, and develops the recipients in hopes of them becoming highly successful businesswomen. By empowering women through entrepreneurship, Her Global Initiative believes that it can also benefit their families and on a broader scale help grow the Gross Domestic Product of undeveloped nations.
Why are you inspired to give back through education?
Education is the seed for progress. This is an important doctrine that defines Her Global Initiative.
When a society is provided the opportunity to learn and develop intellectually, amazing things happen. This is why giving back to those in need through education is how we open doors and break the cycle of poverty for those who otherwise would not have the opportunity to do so.
Providing micro loans is one way to enable impoverished women to start and maintain their own businesses and change their lives. But we have also created lasting macro-economic success through our investment in financial education for women and general education for impoverished children.
For instance, since 2015 we have continuously added onto and developed the Tuvia Pre and Primary School with our dedicated partner Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment. Located in the Kasengejje Sub County Wakiso district, the school teaches impoverished children how to read and write as well as general education lessons. We also partner and guide other academic institutions to help them reach their highest levels of success possible.
Through education, we have been able to not only provide those in need with hypothetical ‘fishing poles’, we have also taught them how to maximize their fishing techniques to best advance themselves and their wider communities over the long term.
It is critical for us to not create followers who passively receive temporary donations, but to instead develop leaders who can advance themselves and those around them. We have seen a trickle-down effect where our women and children are in turn able to educate those around them about what they have learned and better contribute to their economies. This is the key to creating more advanced communities.
Being raised in an impoverished orphanage in China and then an economically disadvantaged household in America, the importance of giving back to those in need has been deeply ingrained in me as I understand what it is like to walk in their shoes.
I am also lucky that my parents taught me why one should help others to their feet regardless of who is watching or how it does not directly benefit the giver. Through Her Global Initiative, we have helped women who are told they are worthy of nothing but obeying their husbands, tending to their homes and bearing children. We are providing them books, education, and support because we know that they are worth more much more than that. We are also imparting one of our most important lessons: that they themselves need to know their own self-worth.
What was the hardest part of your journey?
The hardest part of our journey was securing funding! I knew in my heart that it was going to be successful and change lives, but assuring investors and potential donors was certainly an uphill trek. These women had little credit at best, and most had none. Likewise, offering micro credit loans means that there are not any legally binding debt obligations with the women or collateral to minimize default risk.
In middle money markets, short term loans are typically invested in with the promise of returns or with the extremely high likelihood of them, and so Her Global Initiative is changing this.
Many of the women lived thousands of miles away and spoke foreign languages, and so securing funding especially with domestic citizens was quite onerous. Of course, we were turned away and even laughed at by those who were unable to see our vision, although it was crucial for us not to give up. Because we never did give up, we were able to change the lives of thousands of women and children.
What else do you want to share with our community?
I applaud initiatives such as the Feminist Wednesday Community for their commitment to equality and recognizing just how powerful women really are. The most important piece of advice I would give is to keep pushing society to progress and to promote gender equality even though doing so can become incredibly difficult.
Being the CEO of Her Global Initiative has provided me with a plethora of experiences that have tested my stamina and dedication to the extremes, and it would have been much easier to have simply given up and accepted the doubts of others as fact. When I first started Her Global Initiative we were told by countless banks and experts that our idea was nice in theory but would never work in practice.
We have now lent $529,943 in loans and educational investments, and our payback rate is 97%. 7,296 women have benefitted directly from our loans. Countless women who previously considered themselves inferior or even incapable are now deciding their own future by becoming their own boss. And although we have started by targeting the most disadvantaged communities globally, one day we believe we can roll out the same system for those who need it in other nations such as the USA.
So, what we were told was impossible, has now become possible. Pushing onward with my team of amazing people has been rewarded by seeing lives transformed and communities developed. I encourage others to also stand their ground and push for what is right. The most significant goals will be reached only through hard work and overcoming testing obstacles. Life is designed this way, so don’t let the hard parts distract you from your ultimate goal.