Lauren Herman (2011)
Expanding the Realm of Consumer Protection: The Case of Microcredit
While working and conducting research within a microcredit program in Kenya during the summer of 2010 and in January 2011, Lauren became aware of the lack of consumer protection measures to prevent predatory lending within microfinance institutions (MFIs). To bring awareness to this issue, Lauren’s project will contribute to the legal education initiatives and resources for Kenyan microcredit borrowers through the creation of a consumer and legal education manual. She will collaborate with consumer advocacy groups and microcredit borrowers in Nairobi, Kenya to research and document the operational and loan requirements of the five largest Kenyan MFIs. This educational resource will assist clients in making informed and educated decisions about their participation in these financial institutions. Most importantly, the experiences of microcredit borrowers will be included in the manual to provide potential borrowers the opportunity to learn about the microcredit programs through peer review. In the future, Lauren hopes that the dissemination of the manual to organizations serving Kenyan low-income communities will contribute to a national campaign to implement legal protection for all Kenyan microfinance clients.
Please see Lauren’s project blog at http://consumerprotectionkenya.blogspot.com/.
Lauren received a Bachelors of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice in May 2011. Before attending UC Berkeley, Lauren attended community college in Sacramento, California where she found her passion for volunteering internationally and locally while studying international politics and development. After her admission to UC Berkeley, it was her decision to join the Global Poverty and Practice minor that shaped the majority of her studies and research regarding poverty alleviation, specifically market based approaches to poverty alleviation. In 2010, Lauren received a Summer Travel Fellowship from the Blum Center for Developing Economies to work on the creation of a new rural based microcredit program within a grassroots non-governmental organization through collaboration with ten women. She decided to return to Kenya as a UC Berkeley Institute for International Studies Undergraduate Merit Scholarship Recipient to research the impact that the program has on the participants, their families and businesses, rather than rely on research conducted by financial and development institutions. Most recently, Lauren completed her honors thesis in the International and Areas Teaching Program. Her thesis analyzes the gender inequalities that women microcredit participants experience in the informal economy and in their households and demonstrates how vulnerabilities in the lives of women shape their participation in microfinance