United Nations - Panel Presentation
DRAFT -Submitted by Emma Dixon
Opening Statement:  It is such a great pleasure to participate in the RDLN Panel.
Access To Credit and Capital

Access to credit and capital is one of the key challenges rural women face as part of the current financial crisis.  We recognize that the need for more access to capital is not only a national issue but also a worldwide issue, especially in developing countries.

As an economic development and community development practitioner for over twenty years, in my work to create more affordable housing and to assist micro and small business development, I have personally encountered the great need for improving access to credit and capital.  In my current role as President and CEO of the Louisiana Community Reinvestment Coalition, I address the policy and legislative barriers that prevent access to credit and capital , such as?

Some people have charged that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is the cause of the current economic meltdown.  The CRA, is the 1977 landmark legislation that requires banks to invest in the communities where they are located.  Previously, they would often refuse loan to people living in poor areas.  In combating the idea that CRA helped cause the current financial meltdown, our organization highlights the great gains made because of the legislation, such as more and increased loans to minorities, especially African Americans and Latinos, and the National Homeownership Strategy of the early/mid 1990s under President Clinton.

The mission of LCRC is to increase access to credit and capital for affordable housing, micro and small business development, and individual asset and wealth building to lift individuals out of poverty. The CSW paper, “Survey on women's control over economic resources and access to financial resources” states that microfinance is part of the broad framework of the economic empowerment of women  -- because?

The effectiveness of very small loans can be seen in the work of the Grameen Bank in providing capital for micro business loans in Bangladesh and in Pakistan's Roshaneh Zafar and her work with Kashf, which has loaned a large sum in microfinance loans to women, an astonishing $118 million - 99 precent of which has been repaid.  In addition, a recent PBS NOW show highlighted the microfinance loans in Rwanda that have helped many Rwandan women lift their families out of poverty and rebuild their lives. The empowerment of Rwandan women can also be seen in the large number of them in Parliament there. 

In the United States, many women in rural communities lead economic development projects, like the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alabama, which sells quilts and other products, and Southern Alternatives, a pecan processing plant in Georgia that adds value to local crops and has sold to companies like Ben & Jerry’s.

As a participant in the RDLN program, I focused on asset building and creating wealth in poor communities.  I worked on financial literacy for children and youth, starting as early as kindergarten and preschool.  I also worked on micro and small business training for women, IDA programs for affordable housing, micro and small business, and credit union start-up. 

The New America Foundation recently noted that small community banks and credit unions will play a major role in the recovery from the current economic crisis. 

Our efforts at LCRC include providing CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) and credit union training in partnership with RDLN, Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the Ford Foundation.  Our strategic plan outlines the importance of CDFI’s and Credit Unions in rural communities and the long- term benefits of these cooperative lending institutions. (which are?)  Over the last decade, many low-and-moderate income communities have experienced a proliferation of payday lenders, check cashiers, and other high cost and predatory products and services.  LCRC takes a proactive and strategic approach to address those issues and promotes its work in an on-going economic justice campaign. 

As we continue our work, LCRC will continue to improve access to credit and capital and prevent predatory lending practices that rob low-income communities of valuable assets.   We are keeping a keen eye on the foreclosure crisis and are working with legislators to create more legislation for foreclosure prevention in order to keep families in their homes.

Emma Dixon