Financially and socially empowering women: That’s what attracted Natalie Portman to the Foundation for Intl. Community Assistance. The org’s Village Banking program lends money to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs: business-savvy women. The $50 loans are repaid with interest and recycled several times a year.

On a trip to Uganda in 2003, Portman, the org’s minister of hope and fund-raising, met one of Finca’s first clients from the early 1990s.

“She had 10 daughters. Her husband was beating her. She was living on 80¢ a day. She had a small food stand. Her first loan was for $50,” Portman recalls. “When I met her, she had a restaurant with 15 tables. She had hired seven girls. All of her daughters were in school. Her loan size had increased to $5,000 per cycle. She told me that the best thing about the loan was that she was able to throw out her abusive husband. That’s where you see the social power that women get from economic power.”

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