March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year Cisco is honoring women by supporting Kiva’s campaign to fund $5.5 million USD in loans to women worldwide.

Kiva is a global nonprofit organization that provides an online, crowdsourced lending network for underserved people globally. Kiva microloans allow farmers to invest in equipment, students to pursue higher education, and entrepreneurs to start businesses and create jobs.

Since 2009, Cisco has supported multiple Kiva through cash grants, donations of Cisco technology, and our employees’ expertise.  This week, we are building on that support by matching loans to women entrepreneurs dollar-for-dollar on Tuesday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 9.

If you have not lent through Kiva before, now is a great time to start! And, if you are already a lender, this is a great opportunity to double your impact.

Click here to make a loan

Why support women entrepreneurs?

  • More than a billion women around the world are excluded from access to financial services like business loans or funding for education.
  • If women had access to the same agricultural resources as men, they could reduce world hunger up to 17%, according to the World Economic Forum.
  • Women make up over 50% of the world’s population — and only 1% of the world’s wealth, according to the UNDP.

Kiva loans fill this gap in the current global financial system to give women more financial freedom. That opportunity enables women to go beyond traditional expectations or biases. They’re able to go to school, start businesses and improve their communities.

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Zeppa is one example of thousands of women who are empowered by Kiva loans.

As a young girl, Zeppa would assist and learn as her mother baked beautifully fluffy treats like scones and cakes. Zeppa picked up her mother’s skills quickly; by the time she was ten, Zeppa could bake her mother’s recipes on her own. Zeppa’s aspirations of one day opening her own bakery grew just as quickly.

But Zeppa had to put her dream of starting a business on hold to support herself. Unfortunately, many women have to make this same decision, rather than having the security of knowing they can safely do both. As soon as she was able, Zeppa once again threw her whole self into baking just like she did as a child. She formed a group of five women who applied to receive a Kiva loan for a woman-owned small business from a local organization based in Zimbabwe. Thanks to 58 lenders, Zeppa and the rest of her group raised $2,950 USD in funds and repaid their loan back to each of those lenders in just nine months.

Zeppa is currently working towards opening a storefront in a local shopping center. There, she plans to serve her cakes and other confectionery goods.

Zeppa, Kiva borrower
Zeppa, Kiva borrower

Over the years, Kiva has disbursed $1.28 billion in loans to 3,376,144 women borrowers like Zeppa. More than 80% of Kiva loans go to women—a great impact statistic, but also an indication that women are often excluded from traditional finance.

Support a women entrepreneur and her dreams – make a loan today!

Click here to make a loan


Charu Adesnik

Executive Director, Cisco Foundation; Director, Social Innovation Investments