Christine Chan Downer
formerly of the U.S. State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking.
Friday, April 22
Huron Hills North
3150 Glazier Way, Ann Arbor, MI
What is iZōsh?
iZōsh: Women Investing in Women was founded by a small group of women at Huron Hills Church who were inspired to make a difference by the book, Half the Sky.
The name iZōsh comes from the Ethiopian language Amharic. It is a word that means many things, but can be explained as “compassionate support of a woman”.
iZōsh is dedicated to the economic empowerment of women globally who are living in extreme poverty. By giving micro loans to these women we help them to lift themselves out of extreme poverty and reduce the risk of oppression and exploitation in their lives.
This is how it works:
- We all invite friends to attend three meetings a year and pledge a self-determined contribution per meeting.
- Each meeting will allow members and visitors to connect and learn more about the needs of women in extreme poverty.
- All members vote on which recipient(s) the money should go to that day.
- We celebrate together as the gift goes out that day.
It is really that simple. We will learn about the harsh reality of life for many women in our world today, take action in response to help this injustice, and celebrate the hope we will be giving to someone. It’s women investing in women, devoted to improving lives!
What to expect at an event:
First of all, iZōsh is an Amharic word (in an Ethiopian language) that means “compassionate support of a woman” and in a nutshell, that’s what we’re about — supporting women in extreme poverty by granting micro-loans to fund their plans for creating or expanding a business.
At iZōsh Events we gather, learn, give, and celebrate the joy of empowering women.
Gather – Each Event seems a bit like a party. There’s always coffee and treats while women talk informally as everyone gathers to begin the program. During this time, members participate in first round voting of proposed loan recipients. This first round of voting is called “stone voting” because members receive stones to place in a basket to “vote” for the particular loan recipients the member chooses. It’s fun and it’s one of the perks of becoming a member! If you know in advance that that you want to become a member you can do so before the Event and participate right away in the stone voting. Another perk for members is that in the few days before the event, members may propose loan recipients they would like to see funded.
When it’s time to begin, we sit at round tables of eight and there’s a short ice-breaker question to introduce the women at the table to each other. We range in age from teens to seniors — dressed in everything from jeans to skirts. Come in whatever makes you comfortable.
Learn – Because we are committed to educating ourselves about the challenges faced by women living in extreme poverty around the globe, there is a topic for each event. There is generally a speaker who is known for expertise in some area related to these challenges. This is usually followed by directed discussion at individual tables. Sometimes there’s a short video. As with any group, there are people who are comfortable talking in such a setting and those who prefer to listen — there is no pressure here!
Give – There is a basket passed at each table to collect members’ dues in provided envelopes. Dues are committed amounts from our members that are paid to fund the loans that will be given during the evening. Membership dues are a confidential, self-determined amount. After collection at the table the money is then taken to the treasurers who count and announce the total amount collected. All the money will go towards the funding of the loan recipients chosen from the first round of voting (stone voting) and the second round of voting (table voting).
The second round voting or “table voting” will occur sometime later in the Event. Each table will select more women to receive micro-loans. Both members and guests may participate during this round. All the money collected goes directly to loans and nothing is given to administrative costs.
Celebrate! – You will hear the clang of cowbells and the shaking of African gourd rattles, applause and cheers as we often celebrate when a woman’s loan is funded! There is incredible joy in knowing you have helped change the life of a woman by empowering her through a loan. Thousands of dollars come in and go out at each Event and that’s real cause for celebrating.
Come join us. You’ll be glad you did! We look forward to meeting you.