Giving Credit Where It's Overdue

An unusual banking group helps women entrepreneurs

Melba Lucy Montenegro was poor but ambitious. The 29-year-old mother of three dreamed of opening a bicycle factory in her hometown of Cali, Colombia. But when she asked several banks in the region for a loan, they refused her because she lacked collateral. Then she heard about a group called Women's World Banking, which agreed to guarantee up to 75% of any loan she received. With the group's backing, Montenegro found a bank that was willing to lend her $3,125. Eight years later, she owns three bicycle-repair shops and employs 18 people. "The world has enough workers," says Montenegro. "What I...

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