A cow named Sero

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When the Maasai husband of Tanzanian veterinarian Dr. Victoria Kusiyumbe died, he did something extraordinary: he left her a cow named Sero.

In Maasai tradition, husbands usually leave nothing to their wives - wives are left without any economic means to support themselves and their families, and they become the property of male relatives. Dr. Victoria not only had her government salary of $20 per month as a vet, she also had Sero, a productive asset she could use to supplement family income. Other widows – an increasingly common status arising from the scourge of HIV/AIDS across Africa – are not so lucky. Dr. Victoria tried to help other widows on a case-by-case basis but was soon overwhelmed by the depth of the problem.

So her response was to start a micro-leasing business for other widows so they could survive on their own. She named the business Serolease, after her cow. Ten years old Serolease now has 3,000 clients and a payback rate of close to 100%. A new loan of US$1 million from EXIM Bank, the first bank in Tanzania to benefit from a special line of credit for women entrepreneurs from IFC's new Gender Entrepreneurship Markets (GEM) program, will help her to increase outreach. Her prediction? 30,000 more women helped in the next 5 years.

Coincidentally, EXIM is the only bank in Tanzania with a female CEO. Does it take women to promote these kinds of creative connections to help other women? What other programs of this kind are out there?

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