For Lindiwe, A thriving business means an opportunity to give back to young women in her zimbabwe community.
For Lindiwe, A thriving business means an opportunity to give back to young women in her zimbabwe community.

Gender Equality:
Why it matters and how to achieve it

Understanding how gender equity advances true gender equality — and why financial opportunity is key.

What’s the difference between gender equality and gender equity?

What is gender equality?

Gender equality means giving people equal access to rights and opportunities, regardless of their gender identity or expression.

What is gender equity?

Gender equity means allocating resources based on the needs of individuals (rather than to everyone equally) without gender bias or discrimination.

At Kiva, we believe in gender equity not only for women, but for people of all gender identities and expressions — transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, questioning, transitioning, and more — inclusive of all people. We recognize that expanding access to resources equally is not enough to fix the inequalities faced by people who have been historically and socially denied access to opportunities on the basis of gender. Kiva advocates for gender equity as a vehicle for achieving greater gender equality worldwide, with over 80% of our loans going to women.

Gender inequality creates barriers to women’s economic empowerment.

Gender equity: 740 million women unbanked around the world - Kiva

More than 50% of all unbanked people worldwide are women — with little to no access to financial services.

Even though research shows that women are more likely to invest their earnings in ways that have a long-term impact on their families and communities, an overwhelming number still lack the economic agency to do so.

Gender Equity: number of women in entrepreneurial activity half the number of men - Kiva

In lower-income countries, only 1 in 4 businesses are owned by women.

Because so many women entrepreneurs are excluded from accessing loans or savings accounts, it is difficult to start a business, pursue higher education, or improve one’s livelihood.

Women in financially-underserved communities, especially in rural areas, face a number of barriers to accessing traditional banking services, such as:

  • Lack of capital

  • Lack of business and vocational skills

  • Lack of required official documentation

  • Geographical location

  • Ineligible marital status

  • Cultural norms

So, how do we achieve greater gender equality?

Gender equity allows us to level the playing field.

Creating a world where gender equality is the norm begins with helping those who are systematically disadvantaged. Because women around the world have historically been denied access to the same opportunities as men, improving their economic and social circumstances is essential to tipping the scales toward greater gender equality. With access to resources, women can become financially stable, resilient, and self-reliant, allowing them to better support and protect themselves and their families from abuse, violence, and financial dependence. Equitable access to financial resources also opens myriad opportunities that were previously unavailable to many women, such as:

  • Higher levels of education

  • Banking and capital

  • Employment opportunities

  • Positions of leadership and governance

Financial inclusion is fundamental for gender equality.

When women succeed, the whole world is better for it. And, when women gain access to resources that help them earn, save, and control their own money, they are able to inspire and uplift their communities, economies, and other women and girls around them.

Kiva strives for gender equity by providing access to loans and financial education for underbanked and financially excluded individuals worldwide. When women are excluded from traditional financial services, Kiva loans provide the means for them to build or grow their own businesses, access higher education, and invest in themselves, their families, and their communities.

Kiva’s impact on gender equality

Removing barriers to finance is key to achieving gender equity. That’s why Kiva loans are a powerful vehicle for women’s empowerment.

80 percent of Kiva loans go to women - infographic

Research proves the positive impact of microfinance on gender equality.

Kiva conducted a study in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), focused on post-COVID realities for women entrepreneurs in Fiji, Samoa, and Cambodia. Nearly every woman surveyed reported improvement in her life, household, and business ventures after receiving a Kiva loan. More than 70% of the women reported an increase in their business confidence, while 60% said they felt more confident making household decisions.

Read the report: Catalyzing Innovation for Women Entrepreneurs

Graphic- more than 70% of the women in the study reported an increase in their business confidence.
Graphic - 60% said they felt more confident making household decisions.

With access to financial resources, there’s no limit to what women can do.

Meet some of the women who used Kiva loans to change their lives, their communities, and the world.

Kiran used a Kiva loan to pursue a Business degree so she can open her own restaurant.
Kiran used a Kiva loan to pursue a Business degree so she can open her own restaurant.

Breaking gendered social norms through higher education

“I realized it is not a lack of skills that holds many people back, but a lack of opportunity.”

In Nepal, it’s difficult for unmarried women to access financial services like education loans. But Kiran was able to fund her college degree, thanks to Kiva lenders who believed in her right to pursue higher education. Now she can acquire the skills and knowledge she needs to open her own restaurant to employ local women, and eventually invest in supporting her mother’s tea shop.

Read Kiran’s story →


Becoming a leader for women’s rights in Cambodia

“Everyone has a dream of what they want to do, what they want to be. I've had my dream since I was young. If I didn't have support, I would not achieve, and I would not be who I am today.”

Phaerong dreamt of becoming a leader in the movement for gender equality, despite her community’s expectations that she get married and stay at home to take care of her family. Phaerong used a Kiva loan to cover living expenses at a university in Phnom Penh, while she also volunteered with a local organization for gender equality. Find out the exciting opportunities that came next for Phearong.

Read Phearong’s story →

For Lindiwe in Zimbabwe, a kiva loan boosted her business — and her confidence.
For Lindiwe in Zimbabwe, a kiva loan boosted her business — and her confidence.

Building more than a business— a community of independent women

“I am independent… and if I am independent, I can do anything that I want at any time.”

As a growing entrepreneur, Lindiwe is investing in more than just homemade juice and soda. With a strong business acumen, and the support of 11 Kiva lenders, she’s already running three successful businesses in her community. But it’s pursuing her true passion — mentoring and training other local women — that drives her success. See how one woman's empowerment creates positive ripples throughout her community.

Read Lindiwe’s story →

Meet some Kiva Lending Partners committed to supporting women and gender equity

Microfund for Women

A nonprofit microfinance institution (MFI) that helps provide access to credit for marginalized women entrepreneurs in Jordan. More about Microfund for Women →

MicroLoan Foundation Malawi

An MFI in Malawi that works with women entrepreneurs and farmers, providing loans, training, and ongoing business support. More about MLF Malawi →

Kashf Foundation

One of the leading microfinance partners in Pakistan with a focus on alleviating poverty, especially in women-led households, serving over 2 million women to date. More about Kashf Foundation →

How you can support the movement for gender equality

Join the fight for gender equity and women’s economic empowerment by lending to women today.

Learn more about Kiva’s role in advancing gender equality and gender equity

Article photo - why gender equality is so important - Kiva

Why gender equality is so important

There is still a long way to go to achieve a world where women have access to the same opportunities as men. But first, let’s celebrate the progress that humanity has made towards leveling the field. Read more →

Article photo - How microfinance providers can improve outcomes for women entrepreneurs - Kiva

How microfinance providers can improve outcomes for women entrepreneurs

In addition to providing equitable access to financial resources, Kiva partners are tailoring their microlending practices to better support women’s needs through business coaching, flexible loans terms, and more. Read more →

Article photo - 6 successful women entrepreneurs - Kiva

6 successful women entrepreneurs: there’s no ‘small’ in small business

Entrepreneurship brings endless possibilities to communities and cities around the United States. These six women are achieving big things in the world of small business. Read more →

Questions about gender equality

Gender equality means equal access to rights and opportunities, regardless of one’s gender identity or expression. Gender equity, on the other hand, recognizes that the circumstances are different for each person and strives to allocate resources based on the needs of an individual.

Gender equality creates sustainable economic growth. Relying on only half the population to drive the economy can lead to to stagflation and recession. Studies show that closing the gender employment gap would lead to an average 20% increase in long-run GDP per capita across countries, plus economic gains of $5-6 trillion.

Gender equality leads to safer communities, greater economic development, and a more fair and balanced society for all. Enabling equal access to rights and opportunities for all genders is even linked to reducing food insecurity and helping with climate change.

Yes, every human being, regardless of gender identity or expression, deserves fair and equal access to resources, opportunities, and responsibilities. Gender equality is established as an international human rights law in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

Gender inequality is prevalent throughout the world. However, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean experience some of the highest rates of inequality, violence, and discrimination worldwide.