In 2009, I worked with GTZ ( now known as Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH) to document twenty women in Micro-Financing in Indonesia for the book "Leaders, Lenders and Breadwinners".

They have a saying in Indonesia that money kept in a mother’s sarong is more secure than a dad. A mother will spend it on the family whereas the father will spend it on himself.

Micro-financing in Indonesia is a big business. Most of us are familiar with the Grameen Banking System, created by Nobel Prize Winner Professor Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh. Images of poor village women in Grameen group, who take loan amounts of 1 million rupiahs (USD$110), comes to mind. On the other side of the scale, we also see larger loans amounts of 100- 300 million rupiahs, which are normally approved by managers or commissioners, falling under the category of the Micro-Financing in Indonesia.

However. due to the sheer size of Indonesia’s population of more than 235 million and the huge number of more than 40 million Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs), the lack of access to capital and financial services remains a major constraint for many Indonesian households and enterprises. It’s also hard to define Micro-Financing in one word in Indonesia. Different MF systems are designed to catered for the different needs of the Indonesians in different areas of the country.

In the villages, you’ll find field staff, who are committed to community service, even though it doesn’t pay well. At the highest level of the hierarchy, there are women directors and commissioners who advocates for the poor. At the client level, hardworking and strong women, who are making the best of their situations to provide for a family.

It’s hard to imagine that a loan of USD$100 can make a difference in someone’s life. Something, that is so basic in their lives as a sarong that clothes them or tempeh that many of the poor eat as a substitute for protein, depends on it. I’ve struggled with the edit of this series of pictures for a very long time. A part of me really wanted to focus on the women that are involved in Micro-Financing but at the same time, I think Micro-Financing is not just about the women. It’s really a means of making a living when you have nothing to your name.

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