Anatomy of a Change-Maker: Part Two
“Wanting to change the world was not common in Egyptian culture. I went into the poorest areas, where the women ‘waste pickers’ were collecting garbage. I wanted to work with them as they have nothing. If their husband dies, leaves them, or disappears, they either have to get remarried or become a prostitute and the kids become destitute. They have no choice. I wanted to help them have a choice.”
Iman Bibars, creator of the first micro-credit programme in the Arab world, to upskill women and provide them with ID cards.
Iman Bibars is one of 200 change-makers worldwide that I have interviewed for my forthcoming coffee-table book, Generation Share co-created with visual storyteller, Sophie Sheinwald. Published by Policy Press for Global Sharing Week 2019 (June 16th-22nd), Generation Share takes people on a much needed journey of hope to meet the change-makers who are building a society fuelled by Sharing.
Three years of research for Generation Share, has shown me that change-makers have 6 all-important character traits that make up the Anatomy of a Change-Maker. Last week, I talked about the first characteristic, being a Sharer and today, I’m revealing:
Change-Maker Characteristic Number Two:
BRAVE: In 1984, when Iman Bibars started the first micro-credit programme for women in the Arab world, the odds were well stacked against her. Previous micro-credit programmes permitted only male guarantors.
“We didn’t want women to depend on men, we wanted women to guarantee each other. People said ‘these women will not be able to repay the loans; they have no ID cards.’ So for the first ten years, we gave micro credit with no guarantee, no down payment and the women did not have to know how to read or write. Every single one of the women paid us back.”
For the women Iman set out to help, not having an identity card, meant they didn’t legally exist. Typically, from rural areas, they don’t go to school, they’re not registered with the government, they marry under age and are put on their husband’s ID. Once the husband leaves, these women no longer ‘exist’.
“80% of women in slum areas at that time did not have ID. It took us a long time to find out how to get ID for someone who doesn’t have ID. We demonstrated that women are credible. In comparison to men, 99% of women repay, whereas 80% of men don’t pay back. Now, 97% of women in the country have ID. This kind of sharing changed their lives.”
Being a change-maker means being brave in the truest sense of the word, reinventing the rules, having the tenacity to challenge the system and win. In Iman’s case this was life-saving.
“We gave women the opportunity not to marry the guy who’s going to kick their kids or not become a sex worker, that’s empowering. Now women can become an owner of a supermarket, they do not have to die of poverty, sell their kids or their kidneys.”
Of the 200 change-makers interviewed for Generation Share, all of them demonstrate bravery, none are taking the easy path. Being a change-maker means being audacious like Iman and brave enough to carve out a path where there isn’t one.