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The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Junior Fellowship: Iona Lee

Iona Lee
Lee poses with rural Tanzanian citizens influenced by microfinance. Printed with permission of Iona Lee.

Print Managing Editor Iona Lee ’24 studied the effects of microfinance on rural women in Tanzania this summer as a participant in the Kutler Center Junior Fellowship Program.

Lee’s project focused on the impact small loans had on expanding female entrepreneurship in developing countries in Africa. She will present her work in a slideshow to school board members, faculty and parents at the beginning of the school year.

Lee said she first found the idea of Tanzanian microfinance on an SAT reading passage and ultimately chose it since the topic touched on the importance of female entrepreneurship.

“I got a lot of inspiration from different passages that I read in my SAT reading tests, and one spoke about traveling to Tanzania,” Lee said. “That ended up being the most interesting to me. The other ones, for example traveling to Korea, didn’t speak as much to me. I was really interested in the female empowerment aspect of microloans and also curious about visiting a completely foreign country that I never went to before. ”

Lee said microfinance helps rural female entrepreneurs expand their ventures.

“Microfinance involves small loans that people can apply for and receive through various financial institutions,” Lee said. “Many of the people who received microloans were women, who typically had cottage-like businesses like sewing, fruit selling or jewelry making. These women could use those microloans towards building their business and buying better materials.”

Lee also said the process of loans and investing can help financial sustainability in the long term .

“The thing about microfinance is that it is a gift that keeps on giving,” Lee said. “Once someone receives a loan, investing it can continue to propel their business forward. I feel like it’s totally different than just raising money for a charity since the impact of investing can last a lot longer.”

Lee said her great uncle helped translate local languages to English for her.

“I was in Tanzania for about two weeks,” Lee said. “Each day, I had a few interviews lined up which I had scheduled prior to visiting. My great uncle who is Tanzanian and studied African culture [in the United States] before moving back to Tanzania helped me with language barriers.”

Lee also said she wanted to point out the importance of female entrepreneurship in Tanzania.

“I noticed that, in my interviews, many of the higher-up positions were held by men who didn’t always take me seriously,” Lee said. “For my project, I wanted to focus on little pockets of female empowerment and its ripple effects on the greater community.”

Lee said she has a long-term goal of creating a website that spreads awareness about supporting microfinance in rural African countries.

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About the Contributors
William Liu, Assistant Opinion Editor
Iona Lee, Print Managing Editor

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