MADCash: Lending a little, giving a lot

“One of the challenges that we see is the fact that women hold themselves back. We need to inculcate the mindset that as a woman, one can be rich, one can be successful and this is only achieved if we take a woman out of their community and connect them with mentors that have walked that path, thus giving them permission to be all that they can be.” 

- Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin

Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin - Managing Director at MADCash - Malaysia

2022 WE Empower Finalist, Asia-Pacific

Credit is a double-edged sword that brings many opportunities but can be nearly impossible for disadvantaged groups to acquire. Women in Malaysia are particularly restricted, both economically and socially. Aizah Baharin is changing all of that through MADCash by establishing credit and networks for women while funding their businesses.

Passing the Buck

Microlending is the special tool that allows women entrepreneurs to establish credit through MADCash. Only a few hundred dollars can be the crucial fuel that allows someone's dream to be achievable. The trouble with a regular loan is the interest continually accruing and possibly becoming unpayable, which is why MADCash microloans have 0% interest. “Our loans are given at no interest and so far we have had full payback and no non performing loans,” Baharin says. “Our MADCash platform shows our borrower that when a woman pays back her loan, it goes to someone else down the line. This will hopefully get women to feel that they are also giving back and contributing to someone else thus creating an ecosystem of women funding women. Our goal is to create a society that always pays it forward.” The program has been incredibly successful so far. Starting with loans for only 3 women in April of 2020, MADCash hopes to reach 3000 in 2022, and is serving as a template for a sister program in Papua New Guinea.

A community effort

The loans are a powerful tool, but they are not the true secret to the success of MADCash, as Baharin explains: “The biggest learning so far is how money does not solve all problems,” she says. “We have to look at all social aspects as well. We need to support these ladies in growing their business through a network of women mentors and peers, plus build business and financial acumen.” MADCash addresses these needs by connecting women with peers for networking and mental health, as well as offering education through workshops and the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs. The AWE is accessible online for convenience while the workshops provide more direct learning and a foundation for supportive networks. While MADCash microlending works towards SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, peer connections and education advance SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Great need and great opportunity

The central focus of MADCash is women and SDG 5 Gender Equality. Despite unfortunate causes, Malaysia is rife with opportunity for women now. “We know that most have become main breadwinners due to husbands losing their jobs,” Baharin explains. “The average family size is 5 and may include extended family members. When we received the funding from the US Embassy for Cohort 1, we were looking for 30 women to fund but we received 727 applications.” The need is immense, but both the microloans and networks established through MADCash have been proven to grow rapidly even in the harshest circumstances. Baharin hopes to eventually bring the project to a global stage and reach a million women, which, based on progress so far, may not actually be too lofty of a dream.

“In the MADCash ecosystem, we have the beneficiaries and we have trainers and mentors, as well as state leaders. Wherever possible, we always choose to highlight and empower a woman. We need more role models that our women and little girls can look up to and identify with. By having greater representation in politics and nation decision making, we will achieve better gender equality.” 

- Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin

By Forest Burdette, WE Empower Intern