The Today Show had a segment on microlending this morning, and you know what? Not all credit is bad. And it can really help struggling women. As Reuters reports, anyone with $25 and an Internet connection can finance a small business. Oprah talked about Kiva.org microloans on her show in September, and the day the episode aired, every loan on the site was fulfilled. Plus, Kiva sold $2.2 million in gift certificates over the holidays. The other aspect of Kiva's appeal? Instead of giving to a faceless charity, you can see pictures of the people whom you're helping. NBC's John Larson traveled to Africa and met with people he'd loaned money to over a year ago (check out the clip, above). He saw how they'd spent the cash and how it had improved their lives.



In the same vein, a new bank in India has opened that caters specifically to prostitutes and sex workers. Women in the country's sex industry have trouble opening bank accounts because of prejudice and lack of identification. (Many of the women are saving money to get out of the business altogether.) Shilpa Merchant, who founded the new bank, says a woman with a savings account is more likely to refuse a customer who does not want to wear a condom, because she doesn't have to worry about where her next meal is coming from. (The government has also recently teamed up with prostitutes to cut down on girls being kidnapped and forced into the sex trade. Profiting by selling a person for sex is illegal, but paying for sex with an adult prostitute is not.)

Meanwhile, in this country, CBS News reports that professor and Freakonomics author Steven D. Levitt studied the finances of prostitution. Hookers in Chicago claim 3% of the sex acts they performed over a two-year period were "freebies" given to cops to avoid arrest. In addition, business is better on holidays and condoms are used 25% of the time, with customers paying a small increase in price for unprotected sex. Risky business, indeed.

The Jezebels have decided to pool some cash and loan it to a woman on the Kiva site. We'll let you know how it goes.

Oprah Effect Brings Microlending To Main Street [Reuters]
Bank For India's Sex Workers [Reuters]
India Turns To Prostitutes To Help Beat Trafficking [Reuters]
The Economics Of Prostitution, Analyzed [CBS News]
[Kiva.org]