Princess Mathilde of Belgium in Mumbai, India this week
to see first-hand how microcredit works

Photo: RUNIC

16 March 2005 – Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde of Belgium will be in Mumbai, India this week to see first-hand how microcredit works and the role it plays in the lives of poor and low-income people. During her trip, Princess Mathilde is scheduled to visit Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) in Mumbai on March 17. The Princess is visiting SPARC as an Emissary to the United Nation’s International Year of Microcredit, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of microcredit and microfinance in the eradication of poverty. SPARC is a non-profit organization that provides advocacy on behalf of poor communities and works to create innovative partnerships and linkages between communities of poor with professionals, community organizations and government agencies who wish to work with them.

Princess Mathilde has a special interest in working with vulnerable people, especially children and is an active and passionate supporter of the Year. “The Year of Microcredit highlights how women’s talents and innovations, together with access to credit and savings can give them the power to make long term investments in their families, communities and their children’s lives.” The Princess is looking forward to hearing about microfinance enterprises in Mumbai from SPARC’s staff and clients.

SPARC’s founder-director Sheila Patel, has been recognized by the prestigious Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The foundation selects only the most accomplished social entrepreneurs to its network. Foundation Director Pamela Hartigan calls the entrepreneurs “pragmatic visionaries” who have been able to “combine innovation, resourcefulness opportunity, identifying new processes, services, products or unique ways of combining proven practice with innovation to address complex social problems.”

One of the primary aims of the Year is to increase public awareness about the reliability of microfinance clients, especially women, in repaying loans, managing household incomes, building assets and enterprises and contributing to the economy. Several innovative initiatives ranging from hard data collection on the state of microfinance to raising awareness through popular media about microcredit’s critical role in enabling people to move out of poverty are currently underway globally.
For more information about Princess Mathilde’s visit, please contact:

SPARC, Tel.: 2386 5053/ 2385 8785,
For more information on the Year, please contact:

Christina Barrineau, Tel.: (212) 906-6203, e-mail:
or visit: