Beyond Banking: The Faces of Microfinance Photo Exhibit by Microfinance Group

Photo by Matthew GuttentagA group of women in Sahaspur, India, displaying their pink and blue loan books are just a few of the people featured in a new exhibit “Beyond Banking: The Faces of Microfinance,” on view from Feb. 25 to March 7, 2008 in the Fleishman Commons at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

The exhibit was created by the Duke Microfinance Leadership Initiative (DMLI) from photographs taken by Duke students during their fieldwork. At the opening reception from noon to 2 p.m. on Feb. 25, DMLI members will offer information about internships and career opportunities in microfinance.

The exhibit will travel to Perkins Library March 17-31, and then to Fuqua School of Business April 1-7. The exhibit is sponsored by DMLI and Duke Engage.

Since microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, interest in the field has boomed. Microfinance provides disadvantaged people, especially women, with loans and other financial services to create small businesses. It’s banking on a very personal scale. Here at Duke, three Sanford MPP students founded the Duke Microfinance Leadership Initiative in 2006: Rachael Chong, Valentina Nikolova, and Shana Starobin (MEM/MPP ’08).

“Microfinance is one of the few middle-level policies that brings everyone to the table,” said Nikolova. “In Congress, microfinance bills easily gain bipartisan support. On campus, we’ve been asked to speak to both the Republican and Democratic clubs.”

Now a campus-wide effort with more than 100 members, the DMLI seeks to educate the community about the potential of microfinance and create opportunities for Duke students to become involved, through courses, internships, research projects and conferences. One of the exhibit photographers, Matthew Guttentag, co-president for DMLI’s undergraduate branch, is teaching a house course in microfinance this spring.

“Microfinance is coming of age,” said co-president Starobin. “It’s a powerful model for creating partnerships for addressing global poverty, sustainability and inequality.”

Last fall, the group hosted its first special event “A Socially Conscious Trunk Show” in the Bryan Center to promote microfinance and raise money for future initiatives.

In addition to DMLI, two new classes in microfinance are being taught this spring. Leila Webster, visiting lecturer of PPS, is teaching the first course in microfinance, offered jointly by Sanford’s Duke Center for International Development and the Fuqua School of Business.     

Lara Koch (PPS ’08) is creating a database of internships in microfinance. “We want to provide a support network for students interested in microfinance, helping them to secure opportunities where they can gain hands-on experience in the field,” she said.

To learn more about DMLI, contact Rafe Mazer at

Photo by Matthew Guttentag