By Colleen Dulle
WASHINGTON (CNS) -– Julie Hanna, a two-time refugee and five-time entrepreneur, took to the stage at the United State of Women Summit June 14 to share how her company is bringing dignity and opportunity to talented but disadvantaged people.
A $100 loan helped Cynthia in Ghana to buy beads for jewelry she makes and sells. (Kiva photo/Juan Barbed)
Hanna, executive chair of the board at micro-lending giant Kiva.org, knows from experience that, as she says, “talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”
She told the audience of 5,000 women at the White House summit how she recalled seeing her parents looked upon with pity here after the family fled first from Black September — the Jordanian civil war — and then from the Lebanese civil war.
“The expression I saw on my parents’ face,” she said, “was their dignity being chipped away.” She realized the society they’d entered didn’t understand the difference between broken circumstances and broken people, but she began to dream of a world that would.
“I dreamt of a world that knows pity is the dear enemy of compassion. I dreamt of a world that regards dignity as an unalienable human right. I dreamt of a world that understands that talent is universal but opportunity is not,” Hanna said.
She went on to take advantage of every opportunity she had to channel her talent. She was one of the first girls to play Little League baseball in Alabama after Title IX passed and graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in computer science before moving to Silicon Valley and working for five successful startups including Healtheon, which became WebMD.
Hanna then went to Kiva, which pioneered what’s now known as “crowdfunding” 11 years ago. Its first borrower was a mother of five who took out a $500 loan to start a business without diverting funds from her children’s education.
Egyptian-born Hanna has seen the site transform communities around the world by empowering women in business. Of the entrepreneurs Kiva lenders have funded, 75 percent or 1.5 million are women.
Hanna sat down with Catholic News Service after her talk to reflect on this point.
She said she wanted her speech to convey that “investing in women and women entrepreneurs is the fastest way to transform a society, and that it takes very little money to do that.”
She cited examples of women who began sending their children to school (Read More)