In many places where Kiva works, weddings are much more than fancy parties. They can have huge cultural significance -- symbolizing a critical rite of passage, anchoring whole families, communities and more. Not surprisingly, these types of weddings can put massive financial strain on families, whether they live in the United States or Cambodia.
Enter Kiva. We're all about providing loans to people who don't have access to the financial services they need. And for many of these borrowers, paying for a wedding can break the bank -- or may not even be possible without a loan. Not being able to pay for a sufficient wedding is not only disappointing in this context, it can ruin familial relationships, bring public scrutiny, break up loving matches and more. It goes without saying that most parents want to be able to pay for the important days in their children's lives, but for many Kiva borrowers, a lot more hangs in the balance.
Life in developing countries has its share of expected and unexpected difficulties. A huge percentage of the world’s population works all day seven days per week and still struggles to put food on the table. Too many families live one illness or injury away from starving. Against this backdrop, weddings can provide a much-needed source of joy and hope -- not to mention a break from all the uncertainty. They are precious opportunities to indulge in celebration.
To give you an example, weddings in Tajikistan have long had a reputation of being extravagant -- so much so that the government actually passed a law in 2007 to cap spending. It literally states that weddings can't exceed three hours, have more than 150 guests or serve more than one dish. Traditionally, Tajik weddings would have up to 500 guests and last upwards of 7 days.
It's not that Tajik wedding hosts are spendthrifts -- it's that weddings are truly that important. With half of the country's population living on less than US$2 a day, paying for a wedding is a serious, carefully-planned expense that requires deliberate financing. Kiva is happy to provide a source of flexible, affordable credit for these occasions. Kiva loans can take the immediate pressure of high wedding costs off borrowers' shoulders, enabling them to focus more on their own businesses and avoid going into debt to informal moneylenders.
Take for example, Tojiniso (pictured below) in Tajikistan. A mother of three, her husband recently died, and with only one salary, she was unable to pay for her oldest daughter’s wedding upfront. A Kiva loan enabled her to fulfill her dream of honorably marrying her first-born child -- a tremendous, and emotional feat.