Oradian’s innovative cloud system in West Africa empowers the microfinance community

Oradian customers

Oradian customers

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>>Authored by Vedrana Legovic, marketing and communications officer of Oradian

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Vedrana Legovic

Last month, we travelled to Abu Dhabi for the 18th Microcredit Summit, which hosted a number of microfinance and financial inclusion experts from around the world. The summit explored new and effective ways in advancing financial inclusion and featured successes in Africa and the Middle East. One of those success stories is certainly that of Oradian, and we are honoured that the Microcredit Summit Campaign recognised the impact of our work in West Africa. By using our latest cloud-based technology, services, and domain expertise in that region, we increase efficiency and effectiveness of microfinance institutions (MFIs).

We had the opportunity to attend inspiring plenary and breakout sessions and be a part of the arena where so many great ideas were shared. Oradian’s co-founder and managing director, Antonio Separovic, spoke at the “Innovative Products and Services for Financial Inclusion” panel. Oradian creates technology (SaaS software) for MFIs. With our technology, we remove complexity, empower our users, and enable their growth because most of them still use pen and paper.

Antonio discussed Oradian’s experience in enabling ‪‎ MFIs to advance financial inclusion by using our innovative technology. More specifically, he shared our story about empowering microfinance communities in some of the most remote rural areas in Nigeria, our core market, where we have had impressive results with local MFIs in applying our multi-award winning software, Instafin, to their operations.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Oradian’s Core Microfinance System Instafin awarded to one lucky MFI

Antonio handing the Oradian winner certificate to the representative of Vicoba Village Community Bank from Tanzania

Antonio Separaovic, managing director of Oradian, hands the Oradian winner certificate to the representative of Vicoba Village Community Bank from Tanzania

We had the privilege of partnering with the 18th Microcredit Summit. On the second day of the summit, we held a raffle in which one lucky MFI, Vicoba Village Community Bank from Tanzania, won a 9-month pilot to use our Core Microfinance System – Instafin along with all the training and support.

As Instafin is very easy to implement, we are happy to be able to offer such pilots and we look forward to awarding a similar prize next year. Commenting on the Summit, Antonio Separovic, managing director at Oradian said:

Attending the 18th Microcredit Summit was truly a rewarding experience. We received excellent feedback from attendees and were delighted to join other participants and delegates in so many motivating discussions that highlighted the importance of innovation in financial inclusion. We’re grateful for many opportunities that arose from an inspiring networking environment. I would say the Oradian team is now even more excited to continue working on our mission — to empower the delivery of financial services to the underserved and unbanked. Needless to say, we are already looking forward to the next year’s event.

How we empower MFIs with Instafin

Microfinance institutions in Africa offer both loans and savings, but they operate in outdated technical environments. This creates a struggle with day-to-day operations and, more often than not, causes confusion and uncertainty.

This is where Oradian steps in. Our SaaS Instafin is changing the way MFIs in developing markets operate, enabling them to serve the most rural clients affordably and efficiently. Specifically designed for financial institutions servicing the base of the socio-economic pyramid, Instafin is the world’s first true core microfinance platform, designed by experienced practitioners.

Oradian’s role in women’s empowerment

This year’s summit discussions highlighted once again that microfinance incentives provide much needed access to financial resources that are crucial to the people at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid, among whom women comprise the majority. Women have earned the reputation of being more financially responsible regarding investment, savings, and paying back loans in time. This makes them key drivers for sustainable development and a prime focus of microfinance institutions.

Our customer using Instafin

An Oradian customer using Instafin

By using our technology, the process of delivering microfinance services is more affordable and efficient for MFIs. Instafin is easy to implement and use, which results in savings in costs and time. Having in mind that over 90 percent of Oradian’s end clients are women, it is necessary to recognise the role we play in enabling women to access financial services.

Where is Oradian in advancing financial inclusion in West Africa

We are honoured to have had the opportunity to attend so many inspiring speeches at the Summit and engage in thoughtful discussions, with focus on financial inclusion strategies.

While it is a far stretch to claim that financial inclusion guarantees to bring people out of poverty, having access to financial services is the first step and microfinance institutions are at the forefront of providing these services. Without a doubt financial services help individuals to reach their economic potential, invest in opportunities, and start small businesses or expand them.

In order to advance the financial inclusion efforts, we need to develop an open ecosystem for financial inclusion. Our philosophy is that technology should support a platform that nurtures both our customers as well as a vibrant third party marketplace of solution providers. The Oradian Ecosystem is how we grow and drive change for our customers — now and into the future.

We are committed to increasing financial inclusion in West Africa, given the global demand and scalability of Oradian’s products and services, we are also developing regional partnerships and planning roll-out across the rest of Africa. Our goal is to enable MFIs to extend financial services to 100,000,000 underserved families, touching the lives of half a billion people globally.

About Vedrana Legovic

Trained Internet Marketing Specialist, with MA in Marketing Management and background in journalism, Vedrana has been working in the digital media industry for 8 years. She focuses on social media and content marketing. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Video Corner | Shazia Abbas on microfinance creating entrepreneurs

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18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Shazia Abbas, CEO of Micro Options in Pakistan, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.


Shazia Abbas of Micro Options (Pakistan) discusses her organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty, and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Micro Options provides microcredit services for agriculture, livestock, and alternative energy (i.e., solar and bio-gas), combining access to capital with skills training with a focus on women and youth.

Abbas says that the Summit is a great forum and the biggest networking event for the region and globally. On her experience in Abu Dhabi, she appreciates “learning how other people are doing this work differently, and especially the opportunities we can leverage. That was wonderful. Every session is very important, and I was confused which to pick and not to pick,” Abbas adds with a chuckle. “I will definitely take some learning that I can cooperate at my organization so that we can deliver even better.”

Abbas echoes Professor Muhammad Yunus on the role of microfinance, stressing that access to capital and finance should be a fundamental human right. “If you are educated but you don’t have access to employment,” says Abbas, “you can become an entrepreneur. We provide social and economic development opportunity especially to rural areas and women.”

She continues, “We believe microcredit is directly linked and can directly impact on poverty, but implementation needs to be strategized properly. Ultimately, provision of capital and using this capital in a way that you make people entrepreneurs and make people stand on their own feet.” She concludes that this is how microfinance can “accelerate” people out of poverty.

Bdour Alhyari: Enabling the poor to participate in development

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18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Bdour Alhyari, business development manager for Microfund for Women in Jordan, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.


Bdour Alhyari of Microfund for Women (Jordan) talks with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway, at the 18th Microcredit Summit. Microfund for Women launched a Campaign Commitment in 2015. Commitments are specific, measurable, and time-bound actions organizations take to support the Campaign goal to help 100 Million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. “It is in our mission to enable and empower women at so many levels,” says Alhyari. “We thought we need to be part of this Campaign and commit to act, encourage others to commit to act.” (Learn more here.)

Microfinance plays “a great role” to help end poverty, says Alyhari, because it enables the financially excluded to gain access to the financial system. “Eighty percent [of the world’s population] are not allowed to access finance. Microfinance provides them with financial resources to enable them to participate in the development of societies, of communities. They [beneficiaries and clients] take the money. They create businesses, they continue their learning, their education, to enable them to be part of the development cycle. Gradually this will help to better livelihoods.”

Finally, Alhyari reflects on her time at the 18th Microcredit Summit. “The Summit has brought so many different expertise from different parts of the world,” she says. “We have shown our experience in microinsurance [and], providing the caregiver program, and we heard about other examples in microinsurance, green energy, and so many other topics, [such as] youth. It was a good platform to have this exchange to look at the expertise of each other and learn from it.”

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5 lessons on expanding financial inclusion and usage

Source

Source: The 2015 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Report: Measuring Progress on Financial Access and Usage.

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>>Authored by Mbaye Niane, 100 Million Project intern

The Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) at the Brookings Institute recently published the 2015 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) Report and Scorecard. It evaluates access to and usage of affordable financial services across 21 different countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

These countries are geographically, economically, and politically very diverse, but many of their citizens share a common experience of being excluded from formal financial services. Governments from these 21 countries [1] have made a commitment to achieve financial inclusion by improving access to and usage of appropriate, affordable, and accessible financial services. At the Microcredit Summit Campaign, we are mobilizing commitments from private sector actors as well as governments to expand access to and usage of just such high quality financial — as well as non-financial — services.

We know many organizations in the microfinance and financial inclusion sectors affirm a vision of ending poverty. The aim of this coalition is to tie visions to actions and action to achievement. For example, the Technical Secretariat for Disabilities (Secretaría Técnica de Discapacidades) of the Vice-What is a Commitment + Actions to end extreme povertypresidency of the Republic of Ecuador has committed to support 500 entrepreneurial projects led by persons with disabilities through the Productive & Financial Inclusion Network and to implement of a set of poverty measurement indicators that will allow the Technical Secretariat to assess progress in meeting its objectives in serving persons with disabilities.

Brookings’ Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) measures the progress achieved in those 21 countries and seeks to answer important questions related to global financial inclusion efforts [2], questions that we are interested to know the answer to as well.

  1. Do country commitments make a difference in progress toward financial inclusion?
  2. To what extent do mobile and other digital technologies advance financial inclusion?
  3. What legal, policy, and regulatory approaches promote financial inclusion?

The FDIP Scorecard assesses the accessibility and usage of financial services in each country using 33 indicators across four dimensions: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of traditional and digital financial services. This scorecard will help non-governmental organizations, policy makers, private sector representatives, and others examine the best practices for facilitating and measuring financial inclusion.

The FDIP reports that Kenya, South Africa, and Brazil lead the 21 countries overall on financial inclusion. Rwanda and Uganda follow, tied at fourth place. These high-performing countries took the critical steps towards financial inclusion such as policy and regulatory changes. Creating an accessible and affordable path for poor families to use digital technology is a strategic way to get them out of poverty. The FDIP report and scorecard give us valuable information about financial inclusion. It is valuable to show that countries making commitments, solving regulatory issues, and creating an accessible and affordable path for poor families to use digital financial services (i.e., mobile money and e-wallets) is a strategic way to get them out of poverty.

Achieving financial inclusion: Five critical conclusions

The 2015 FDIP Report can be summarized with the following five critical conclusions on how to best expand financial inclusion across the world.

[ONE] Country commitments are vital to reach financial inclusion.

They facilitate knowledge-sharing and engagement among groups and assure that national financial inclusion strategies include measurable targets and a strong coordination across government agencies with the public and private sectors. Country commitments allow the creation of developing surveys that diagnose the status of financial inclusion, a critical step to develop a targeted strategy and assessing the success of future inclusion initiatives.

[TWO] Digital financial services are important for accelerating financial inclusion.

Governments and the private sector will need to increase investments in digital communication and payments infrastructure and ensure services are affordable. The use of digital financial services has grown significantly in recent years among many people who have little or no previous experience with formal financial services. Many households have more than one mobile phone, smartphone or tablet.

We believe that mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities is a key financial inclusion strategy — one of our six “pathways” — to help end extreme poverty. According to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) in 2015 the number of cellular connections through mobile phones, smartphones and tablets increased to more than 7.5 billion and is expected to increase to over 9 billion by 2020. Additionally, smartphone penetration will allow non-bank institutions to expand access to more user friendly interfaces such as mobile financial services. However, for several reasons, feature (or “dumb”) phones will remain the preferred option in many developing community contexts (i.e., poor villages in Africa) for a while still.

[THREE] Geography generally matters less than policy, legal, and regulatory changes.

With this said, there are some regional trends in terms of financial services provision, however. Regulatory and policy changes will likely accelerate financial inclusion outcomes, but in order to promote digital financial services — which, as we explain above, is important for accelerating financial inclusion — countries need a robust digital ecosystem that promotes innovation.

[FOUR] There are many important actors with major roles and they need to coordinate closely.

Central banks, ministries of finance and communication, regulated banks and non-bank financial providers, and mobile network operators each have a major role in achieving financial inclusion. They should closely coordinate with respect to advances in policy, regulation, and technology to ensure a vibrant and inclusive financial ecosystem.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign organized a Field Learning Program last year for ministers and directors of social protection programs in Africa who were interested to learn how to replicate and scale up important, accessible, and affordable financial services to the extreme poor. They observed how flagship programs like Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program are combating extreme poverty pairing financial services with social protection programs. In Mexico, they examined how the government and regulatory authorities coordinate with financial entities and technology companies to deliver a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. The national development bank, BANSEFI, plays an integral role as a facilitator of cash transfers and an accounting hub for the social protection program.

[FIVE] Tackle the gender gap and address diverse cultural contexts with respect to financial services.

Solving these two problems will help achieve global financial inclusion. For example, formal financial service providers encounter mistrust and a lack of awareness. Public and private sector leaders need to educate the public about these services and mobilize their efforts to improve the efficiency and reliability of communication networks.

The FDIP Scorecard

The FDIP Scorecard provides us an overall ranking for each country on the rate of financial inclusion, a country’s commitment, the mobile capacity, the regulatory environment, and adoption of traditional and digital financial services.

The FDIP Report and Scorecard are instructive to us as we pursue our advocacy on uptake of the six pathways (mobile money, integrated health and microfinance). The FDIP report and scorecard hold valuable information that can provide positive guidance to the design and delivery of financial inclusion interventions. This report strengthens the growing body of evidence demonstrating effective ways of reaching the hardest to reach and poorest individuals with programs that support their sustained progress out of poverty.

The scorecard offers an easy-to-understand progress report on financial inclusion commitments. How can we assess, in the future, progress made on Campaign Commitments?

Here is an example of one of the 21 scorecards in the report:

We hope this report provides strength to the growing body of evidence demonstrating effective ways of reaching the hardest to reach and poorest individuals with programs that support their sustained progress out of poverty.


Footnote

[1] The 21 countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, and Zambia.

[2] John D. Villasenor,West, Darrell M., and Lewis, Robin J. The 2015 Brookings Financial And Digital Inclusion Project Report. Pg.3: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2015/08/financial-digital-inclusion-2015-villasenor-west-lewis/fdip2015.pdf?la=en


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Insufficient and greatly uneven progress on the maternal health MDG

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization. They are lobbying for bipartisan legislation in the Senate that can impact the lives of mothers and children worldwide. (See the Fact Sheet.)


>>Authored by Marion Cosquer and Sabina Rogers

MDG 5: Improve maternal health

Target 5.A: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

graph_MDG5

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

In 1990, 380 pregnant women were dying for every 100,000 live births. As of 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio has decreased by 45 percent to 210 women per 100,000 live births. The highest gains were seen in South and Southeast Asia with a 64 percent and 57 percent reduction, respectively. Developing regions overall achieved a 46 percent reduction. Maternal survival has been aided by a one-third increase in childbirth attendance by skilled health personnel. Thus, the news in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals Report for MDG 5 is promising.

Nonetheless, progress towards improving maternal health so far falls far short of the targets set under MDG 5 and has lagged far behind the other MDGs. Additionally, global figures tend to mask regional inequalities. For example, there were 510 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in sub-Saharan Africa compared to 190 in South Asia and 140 in Southeast Asia.

Progress in raising the proportion of births delivered with skilled personnel has been modest over the last 15 years, reflecting the lack of universal access to care. Indeed, one in four babies still being delivered without skilled personnel and wide disparities are found among regions. For example, there is a 52 percent spread between the largest rural/urban disparity across regions:

  • In Central Africa, 32 percent of births were attended by skilled personnel compared to 84 percent in urban areas.
  • In East Asia, there is no difference between urban and rural areas.

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia pull down the developing region average. Overall, 56 percent of births in rural areas are attended by skilled health personnel compared to 87 percent of births in urban areas.

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Target 5.B: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health
After 25 years of slow progress, only half of pregnant women in developing regions receive the minimum of four antenatal care visits recommended by the World Health Organization. Once more, coverage levels in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia trail the other regions. Sub-Saharan Africa has barely increased from 47 percent to 49 percent of pregnant women; South Asia has the lowest coverage at 36 percent (though it increased from 23 percent). Moreover, despite having doubled contraceptive use [1] in sub-Saharan Africa from 13 to 28 percent, sub-Saharan Africa still trails all other regions.

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Click to enlarge. Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Proven health-care interventions can prevent or manage the complications that cause maternal deaths, such as hemorrhage, infections, and high blood pressure. These complications are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, accounting for 86 percent of all deaths worldwide in 2013. Use of contraceptives also contributes to maternal health by reducing unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal deaths.

The report tells us that contraceptive use has risen in all regions and 90 percent of users were using effective contraceptive methods. However, the unmet need is still high (24-25 percent) in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceana. Other developing regions hover around 11-14 percent unmet need, and the overall use in those regions is significantly higher than in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceana.

The adolescent birth rate shows a mixed story. While the global rate for developing regions has fallen by half (from 34 to 17 births per 1000 girls), it hides poor progress in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. Indeed, in three regions (Southeast Asia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and North Africa), some of the gains in the adolescent birth rate from 2000 reversed in 2015. Moreover, progress in East Asia was stagnant over the last 15 years.

The report calls for urgently needed intensified efforts to delay childbearing and prevent unintended pregnancies among adolescents. By increasing opportunities to go to school and for paid employment, we would see an overall improved maternal and child health as well as reduced poverty, greater gender equality, and women’s empowerment.

Maternal health in the post-2015 development agenda

The new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which are set to be approved at the Sustainable Development Summit September 25 to 27, encompasses a broader, more ambitious and inclusive health goal. Goal 3 seeks to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Indeed, it seeks to reduce the global mortality ratio to fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Under Goal 3, countries will agree to ensure, by 2030, universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs — for which the microfinance sector can be a key partner.

The report concludes on the inequalities in data availability on maternal health among and within regions. The lack of data is a key factor contributing to the unfinished MDG agenda, hampering efforts to establish priorities on national, regional, and global health. In the post-2015 period, it is imperative to have better and more data, especially concerning registration of births and deaths, in order to set adequate policy priorities, target resources more efficiently, and measure improvements.

In order to build on the successes of the MDGs and achieve Goal 3 of the SDGs, the 18th Microcredit Summit will focus on integrated health and microfinance as one of the six pathways out of poverty. Empowerment of women — which can help reduce maternal mortality more quickly and efficiently — will also be an important theme.


Footnote

[1] “Contraceptive use” is defined concerning women aged 15-49, married or in union, who are using any method of contraception

Post-MDG 3: Achieve gender equality to tackle the root causes of poverty

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization).

MDG 3 is focused on gender equality and empowering women. Many MFIs are actively working to address gender inequality and to empower women in their own corner of the world. A dozen organizations have so far made a Campaign Commitment specifically targeting women. For example, Grama Vidiyal launched a Commitment will help 500,000 clients in India with their Health Service and Development Program that provides sanitary napkins for women. Crecer (Bolivia) committed to continue to prioritize services for female clients. CRECER has 152,000 clients and will grow 3 percent per year to reach 166,000 clients by the end of 2017 while maintaining a rate of 80 percent women clients.


>>Kristin Smith, former intern for the 100 Million Project

MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

As the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) rapidly approaches, we are called to evaluate the significant and substantial progress made across the board in addressing the root causes of global poverty. The final MDG report, recently released by the United Nations (U.N.), documents the global 15-year effort to achieve the aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration, highlighting the vast successes while acknowledging the substantial gaps that remain.

The number of people living in extreme poverty, the proportion of undernourished people in developing regions, and the global under-five mortality rate have all decreased by more than half; however, despite these remarkable statistics, millions are still being left behind due to their sex, age, disability, ethnicity, or geographic location.

As we aim to continue substantial advances in reducing global poverty through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or “Global Goals”), we must renew our efforts to focus on the most vulnerable populations.

Target 3.A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

The importance of achieving gender equality arguably extends into every facet of society. MDG 3 aimed to address parity in education, political participation, and economic empowerment and emphasized the crucial role of women in achieving the other seven MDGs as well.

At the Council on Foreign Relations in 2004, economist Gene Sperling noted that “girls’ education is an integral part to virtually every aspect of development, and what is just striking is the amount of hard, rigorous academic data that is not only about what girls’ education does in terms of returns for income and for growth, but in terms of health, AIDS prevention, the empowerment of women, and prevention of violence against women.”

Women are proven to be key contributors to large development payoffs such as increased economic productivity and reduced maternal and infant mortality. This final report reiterates that “the education of women and girls has a positive multiplier effect on progress across all development areas.”

MDG-infographic-3

Indicator 3.1 Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education

In reviewing key statistics highlighted in the report, progress towards MDG 3 seems promising, yet further analysis paints a rather dreary picture. While the developing regions as a whole have eliminated gender disparity in primary, secondary, and tertiary education, this comes only as a result of averaging progress with the few prosperous regions. In South Asia, for example, female primary school enrollment has surpassed boys’: from 74 girls for every 100 boys in 1990 to 103 girls for every 100 boys today.

However, looking at the Gender Parity Index (GPI), defined as the ratio of the female gross enrollment ratio to the male gross enrollment ratio for each level of education, certain regions have backtracked on progress since 2000. GPI has decreased at the primary level in East Asia, at the secondary level in Oceania, and at the tertiary level in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Indicator 3.2 Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector

Women still face discrimination in access to work and economic assets, and they lack sufficient representation in public and private decision-making roles. The most prevalent barriers to women’s employment, as noted in the report, are household responsibilities and cultural constraints.

Distribution of working-age women and men (aged 15 and above) by labour force participation and employed women and men by status in employment, 2015 (percentage)

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Indicator 3.3 Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

Since the launch of the MDGs, women have gained significant ground in political representation. The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled over the past 20 years; however, there remains significant work to be done with only one in five members being women. Organizations like UN Women help focus future development efforts on including women as a key demographic in global development, as poverty remains a heavily feminized condition.

Distribution of countries* in the developing regions by status of gender parity target achievement in primary, secondary and tertiary education, 2000 and 2012 (percentage)

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Onward with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Despite uneven progress and persistent inequalities, the MDGs helped to lay an ambitious framework for the long-term effort of tackling the root causes of global poverty.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development, or SDGs, are intended to build on the successes of the MDGs and tackling problems where they fell short. While some people complain that there are too many goals, they have been designed with an eye toward promoting concise and reasonable actions. Perhaps that requires 17 goals and 169 indicators. In analyzing the draft language of the successor Global Goals, it is important to note the widespread presence of important phrasings such as “inclusive” and “for all.”

UN Women advocated for a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality, similar to the MDGs. SDG 5 is “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;” this means tackling violence against women as well as ensuring equal economic and leadership opportunities, property rights, equal policies, social protection, and more. This singularly focused goal is crucial to creating a ripple effect for the integration of gender equality throughout the other goals.

Reaching full equality and empowerment for women and girls remains a crucial requirement to achieving full and sustainable development.


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ESAF Microfinance commits to comprehensive services for clients

ESAF Microfinance trains community health workers and organizes health fairs for their clients and poor communities. Photo courtesy of ESAF Microfinance
— Read the press release announcing ESAF Microfinance’s Campaign Commitment
— Read their Commitment letter

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes ESAF Microfinance as the 57th organization to make a Campaign Commitment. ESAF joins a global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. ESAF will help support their clients in uplifting themselves from poverty by providing them with education, training, and support services.

ESAF and the Campaign strongly believe that microfinance services should be complemented by education, training, and other supporting programs that help poor families battle chronic poverty and social exclusion. For example, in partnership with the Campaign, ESAF trained community health workers (Arogya Mithras in Hindi) to provide health education and front-line screening services for non-communicable diseases to poor communities. You can learn about that project in “Integrating Health with Microfinance: Community Health Workers in Action.”

For the financial year 2015-2016, ESAF Microfinance aims to reach out to new clients through its products and services, committing to the following:

  1. To offer microfinance services to 200,000 new clients through expanding the geographic reach in some of the backward states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Bihar.
  2. To increase the reach of financial services to an additional 10% of clients, making it to a total of 50% of clients who belong to socially backward communities/tribes (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as per government of India)
  3. To offer livelihood support services to at least 10,000 clients who shall be in a position to contribute to the income of their household.
  4. To measure the poverty levels of 200,000 clients using PPI.
  5. To offer financial literacy training to at least 50,000 clients.
  6. To offer health education and awareness sessions to at least 50,000 clients and to offer health check-up services to benefit at least 5,000 clients.
  7. To offer financial and non-financial services to at least 3,000 PWD (persons with disabilities) clients.
  8. To offer women’s leadership and empowerment programs to benefit at least 50,000 clients.
  9. To reach at least 2,000 children through educational programs for academic growth and value education.
  10. Educate at least 50,000 clients on environment protection and use of clean energy products.

Chairman and managing director, K. Paul Thomas, explains why their commitment includes a number or programs addressing multiple aspects of the client’s life such as health:

“ESAF’s vision and mission very clearly emphasize on holistic transformation of its poor clients,” he said, “and, we are convinced this cannot be achieved unless their health issues are addressed.”

ESAF Microfinance is one of the premier microfinance institutions in India today, particularly in Kerala, effectively empowering 750,000 members through 160 dedicated branches. The founder of ESAF ventured into microfinance in 1995, by organizing self-sustainable groups, to alleviate poverty and generate employment. Since then, ESAF has grown by leaps and bounds in the microfinance sector, promoting microfinance as a viable, sustainable, and effective means for creating jobs and reducing poverty.

Read the Commitment Letter from ESAF Microfinance.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign looks forward to welcoming our new partners to the global coalition and sharing their progress towards the Commitment achievement at the 18th Microcredit Summit. The Campaign’s 100 Million Project is building a movement among financial service stakeholders committed to helping to end extreme poverty through: public statements of commitment to action, expanding practices to reliably measure movement out of extreme poverty, and promoting innovations and best practices to accelerate movement out of poverty.


We invite you to join ESAF Microfinance and…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty:

A deep dive into the Millennium Development Goals Report

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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>>Authored by Sabina Rogers, Communications and Relationships Manager

The United Nation’s (U.N.) Inter-Agency and Expert Group on MDG Indicators recently issued the latest assessment of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in a 75-page report. The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015 is a rich document presenting data on each of the eight goals. In short, the MDGs have had mixed results, and the headline of one billion people lifted out of extreme poverty (living on less than US $1 a day) is almost entirely a result of the massive gains in China and India.

The 2015 MDG report presents the successes and shortcomings in the areas reducing poverty, increasing employment, and eradicating hunger. In the foreword, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon extolled these successes while conceding that “inequalities persist and that progress has been uneven.” Specifically, few countries met their poverty alleviation targets, and women and other vulnerable groups still tend to be excluded in what gains there were. Maternal and child health is still a very serious problem around the world (especially these 17 countries), including the Philippines, where we have a project with Freedom from Hunger and CARD MRI whose express purpose is to address this problem.

In just a few weeks, world leaders will convene in New York to finalize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successors to the MDGs. (Here is the SDG agenda for the U.N. Summit.) What is most important for the international community to consider is what worked with the MDGs and why. Moreover, we should take inspiration from the fact that the MDGs did reshape our world. Ban Ki-moon says it best:

“By putting people and their immediate needs at the forefront, the MDGs reshaped decision-making in developed and developing countries alike…Reflecting on the MDGs and looking ahead to the next fifteen years, there is no question that we can deliver on our shared responsibility to put an end to poverty, leave no one behind and create a world of dignity for all.”

In the coming weeks, we will be publishing articles reflecting on each MDG and the assessment as presented in the 2015 report from the U.N. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization), a non-profit that supports a movement of passionate, committed everyday people who use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. RESULTS grassroots volunteers have been instrumental in so many (often unsung) ways over the years to bring about the successes that we do see in the 2015 report.

We will present the first post in that series tomorrow morning. In the meantime, check out this fantastic visualization of the MDG data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.


Published articles to date:

Colombia, a “Pathways” poster child

cct-grad-model_infographic_final_en1_Medium

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>>Authored by Paul Gostomski, Microcredit Summit Campaign Program Intern

The 100 Million Project, an initiative of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, aims galvanize and support work that helps advance industry toward the goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out extreme poverty. To do so, the Microcredit Summit Campaign advocates adoption of “Six Pathways,” which are financial inclusion strategies that can reach the extreme poor and facilitate their movement out of extreme poverty.

The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a global partnership of 34 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion, recently published a paper that does an excellent job highlighting two pathways that are currently being implemented in Colombia: conditional cash transfers and an initiative to link mobile banking services with agent networks.

Conditional Cash Transfers

The Más Familias en Acción program began in 2001 and aims to supplement the income of families who live below the poverty line and have children under 18. Mothers receive the cash transfer conditioned on their child’s regular attendance at school. This condition also qualifies the family for a health subsidy if their child receives regular health check-ups. In 2012, Más Familias en Acción was reaching 2.7 million families throughout the country. Between 2001 and 2012, malnutrition among children in Colombia aged two and under in rural areas decreased by 10 percent. Also in this time, school attendance for children between 12 and 17 increased by 12 percent.

The Campaign advocates for the use of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) within our six-pathways framework due to evidence such as is seen from programs like Más Familias en Acción. An array of positive externalities are also associated with CCTs, including income smoothing. Stabilizing income through CCTs help families better plan for the future as the immediate risks of today are somewhat mitigated.

Conditioned cash transfers are also incentivizing beneficiaries to make investments in themselves, often through participation in programs to increase health or education for the family. During last year’s Innovations in Social Protection program led by the Campaign, participants in PROGRESA (then called Oportunidades) indicated that while they appreciated and valued the security the transfer brought, they found that the greatest positive change was understanding the significance of the education and health investments they were making in their families.

Another positive externality of conditional cash transfer, and one we find significant, is its effect on women in poor communities. Almost all conditional cash transfers are administered to the mother of the household and this in turn increases women’s bargaining power, something that’s all too often neglected in poor communities.

 Mobile Money with Agent Networks

The second of the two pathways currently being implemented in Colombia is mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities through the mobile banking service DaviPlata. DaviPlata, launched as a private mobile service in 2011, was able to garner 500,000 customers in its first year of operation. Taking notice of this success, the government of Colombia contracted DaviPlata in 2012 to deliver the conditional cash transfers of Más Familias en Acción to its 937,000 beneficiaries.

After being contracted, the paper noted, DaviPlata as an organization began a new focus on how to serve the poorest in the country. DaviPlata, working solely through mobile phones, makes financial inclusion easier by making transferring, receiving, and withdrawing money less costly to the recipient of the conditional cash transfer. The recipient now spends less time traveling to the bank or post office and takes less risk as he or she has less cash on their person.

The World Bank reports that of the poorest two quintiles of those living in developing countries, only 30 percent have access to a savings account, whether formal or informal. The Campaign is looking at mobile money within its six-pathways framework because of how digital financial tools are decreasing the cost of transacting and, when linked with savings, increasing the ease with which the poor can access accounts, begin to develop savings, and more easily transfer money when needed.

Although many of the poor do not have savings accounts, many do have mobile devices. Mobile money linked with agent networks like DaviPlata helps link those living in more rural and remote areas to the mobile platforms where traditional financial institutions are less easy to find.

However, DaviPlata has room for improvement as a payments facility. The CGAP paper reports that DaviPlata faces an illiterate customer base and also issues with customers that do not understand the technology. DaviPlata must also deal with dormant accounts, where customers signed up for the service but their accounts have not been used in more than 30 days. Overcoming these challenges will be critical to moving forward.

Colombia’s Next Step

Colombia’s Más Familias en Acción, is a global leader in the use of CCTs to support increased health standards and school attendance among the poor. Now, work needs to be focused on decreasing the inefficiencies around the mobile banking service DaviPlata. In the CGAP paper on Colombia, it was made clear that Colombia’s greatest development challenge was in regard to DaviPlata and increasing its financial stability. This includes taking fuller advantage of the product while making the processes and channels more efficient. With a more effective method on distributing funds, the intended effects of Más Familias en Acción can then be multiplied.


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Community-based financial inclusion: Sarah’s story

Sarah Chikuse standing in front of her pigsty

Sarah Chikuse standing in front of her pigsty. She is proud to be one of the few women encroaching into this previously male dominated agricultural territory. Photo courtesy of Alex Dalitso Kaomba.

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>>Authored by Alex Dalitso Kaomba, development consultant and freelance writer

At 39 years of age, Sarah Chikuse’s health is visibly better than the other women in her village. A single mother of two, she lives in Kang’oma village on the outskirts of Lilongwe’s Area 23 in Malawi. Her day starts at 4:00 AM when she usually wakes up to the din of her neighbors’ jerry cans and water tins at the only borehole in the village.

Sarah starts by lighting up her charcoal burner so that it gathers heat while she fetches water at the borehole. Next on the routine (if it’s during school term) is preparing her daughters for school. Once she bids her daughters goodbye, she tends to her newly acquired livestock.

Sarah Chikuse_with pigsty

Sarah in front of her pigsty. Acquiring a pig is one highlight on her growing list of achievements. Photo courtesy of Alex Dalitso Kaomba.

Owning livestock is not only a symbol of status for the privileged but also an envied source of income in Malawi, which has one of the lowest livestock herds per family in Southern Africa. Sarah is proud to be one of the few women encroaching into this previously male dominated agricultural territory.

Acquiring a pig is one highlight on her growing list of achievements. Sarah counts herself a success in being able to afford three meals a day for her family and providing her children with a basic education. She has paid their school fees and provides their books, uniforms, and lighting for evening homework.

Two months ago, her daughter contracted malaria, and for the first time, Sarah managed to hire a car and take her to a private clinic where she got rapid, quality care. The hospital bill was US $12, and she managed to pay it in full.

Life before inclusion

Life has not always been so comfortable for Sarah and her family. After a bruising divorce, she was left with less than $4 tied up in her wrapped skirt, and she struggled to make ends meet. She could hardly afford a single meal for her children. She started selling vegetables at a local market, but her family’s daily expenses were much higher than her profits and the business did not grow.

Sarah desperately wanted to get a loan but did not possess any tangible property except the roofing sheets on her two bedroom house. One institution agreed to use the roofing sheets as collateral for a micro business loan, but after careful consideration, she could not accept the offer. She had seen people in her village having roofing sheets confiscated after defaulting on payments, and she was not ready to risk such humiliating consequences.

In January 2015, she joined a self-help group (SHG), a concept championed by a local NGO, Global Hope Mobilization (GHM), which is supported by a $150,000 two-year grant from Vibrant Village Foundation. The doors of opportunity for Sarah started opening then. (GHM’s self-help groups are basically savings groups.)

As a vegetables vendor, Sarah could make $2 a day from which she would have to provide for her family daily needs. However, the SHG she joined required that she contribute $0.20 a week into the pooled funds. She struggled to keep up for two months until her turn to borrow the funds came up. She used all the money she borrowed to buy a variety of vegetables for her fresh produce business.

Photo courtesy of Alex Dalitso Kaomba.

Sarah feeding her livestock. Photo courtesy of Alex Dalitso Kaomba.

Life after inclusion

Sarah showed me a tiny pigsty with one mother pig and eleven piglets, the first time in her whole life that she has owned livestock. In a few months, she expects to sell and collect over $500. This was possible because she joined an SHG from where she accessed loans totaling a little under $100 over a 3-month period. She pumped this money into her fresh farm produce business by ordering a wide variety of vegetables and fruits which her customers had always asked her to stock. Her business revenues increased rapidly.

I asked her what her most outstanding benefit from the SHG was. With a very wide smile and beaming face, Sarah had this to say:

“I was a pauper with no hope, but the SHGs taught me the importance of saving from the little I get and how to access low interest loans. Today I can feed my family good meals every day, I have a piggery project that will soon start bringing me revenues. I intend to diversify into selling kitchenware which brings me higher profits than vegetables and even if I stock more kitchenware it is not perishable.”

Anne Chiudza from Global Hope Mobilization says, “We are aware that the marginalized, poor, and unbanked population has its own means of survival, and from the little they get they can change their lot in life by using their numbers to pool funds together. Our organization believes in facilitating improvement of livelihoods through community owned strategies and the self-help group concept is one such strategy.”

A measure of how these groups can advance community development is a borehole which the women are planning to have drilled in a year’s time at a cost of $4,000 without any donor funding.

Sarah’s story is just one among many in her 20-member group. They have managed to improve the lot of their families by building or improving their homes, by improving their families’ nutrition, and by consolidating their economic independence through self-help groups. There are 15 more groups in surrounding villages, and evidence is clear that the women’s hard work and commitment is bearing fruit for the betterment of Kang’oma community’s standard of living.


More about Global Hope Mobilization’s self-help group model

Global Hope Mobilization’s (GHM’s) self-help groups are savings groups whose sole aim is to provide a low-interest pool fund from which members (and only members) of the group can borrow to inject into their businesses. Members can save through loaning out the savings over a period of four weeks.

The groups loan out the money from the very first meeting. No funds are kept in a box of any sort because soon after contributions have been made, a borrower must take the money immediately. The funds are only deposited in the bank when they have multiplied and no members are ready to borrow that week.

Question: How does GHM create the groups?

Answer: At the beginning of the project last year, Global Hope Mobilization trained four Community Facilitators who were all drawn from the catchment community. Their role is to spearhead the formation of the groups and act as resource persons for the groups on behalf of Global Hope Mobilization.

The SHGs are self-replicating because the roof limit for each group membership is 20 members only. To date GHM, is supporting 100 groups with a total of 2000 members, all of whom are women. There is, however, an emerging demand from men in some villages to join the groups.

Q: Are the SHGs self-sustaining or are they reliant on GHM for ongoing support / hand-holding?

A: The SHGs are self-reliant. GHM only facilitates their financial literacy training and monitors their early growth stages, providing guidance and advisory [services] where needed.

Q: What training does GHM provide to the SHG members? Do they offer other sorts of capacity building like financial literacy, health, women’s empowerment, etc.? Do they try to link SHGs to other services like government social protection services?

A: The flip side of [GHM’s] concept is to provide women with a platform and confidence to identify and demand social services from government departments like water, health, etc. Every group meeting ends with a social discussions segment. All issues are recorded for future reference and actioning. Using the SHG as a nucleus for change, GHM facilitates health talks and [sexual and reproductive health] SRH awareness campaigns.

Q: Do all SHG members take out a loan? Or, do some just use the SHG to save? What is the interest rate on loans (if there is interest) and what is the savings interest rate (if there is one)?

A: Around 75 percent of members take out loans at an average interest rate of 10 percent per month. The loans period is 4 weeks maximum, depending on the loan size and specific group by-laws. Interest [on] savings is 10 percent.


About the author

Alex KaombaAlex Dalitso Kaomba is a 35 year old Malawian rural development consultant and freelance writer. He lives in a village on the outskirts of Lilongwe the capital city of Malawi. He works with International and local NGO’s in Malawian villages in the areas of access to energy for maternal health and education, HIV and Aids, education and environmental interventions. Alex has a passion for development work and the African stories of self-sufficiency and sustainable rural development. His favorite pastime is reading, watching sport and playing cricket.

alex.kaomba[at]gmail.com | @AlexKaomba | https://www.facebook.com/kaomba


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#tbt: The Faces Behind the Statistics

#ThrowbackThursday

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2005. Microfinance client Janèt Dèval attended literacy courses offered by Fonkoze and shares how her business has been improved. Indeed, it has cemented her determination to continue improving herself and her loyalty to her microfinance institution.


Microfinance stands as one of the most promising and cost-effective tools in the fight against global poverty.

Jonathan Morduch, Chair
United Nations Expert Group on Poverty Statistics

Janèt Dèval, a client of Fonkoze, a microcredit institution in Haiti, is one of the 66.6 million poorest clients reached. Janèt has been a credit client for more than two years and comes regularly to all meetings. She has also been a part of every literacy program available and is about to start the newest module on developing business skills. Not only could she not read or write when she started, but she has had an extra challenge: Janèt has only a fraction of her hearing due to an injury when she was 20 years old.

My husband didn’t want me to send my five children to school because his parents didn’t send him to school. From the beginning, he said he would not pay and he has never given even one goud, but I always knew it was important. For a long time I have gone to Port-au-Prince to buy goods to sell in Hinche, and I put all my money into paying for school for my children.

When I found out that Fonkoze gave literacy classes for market women, I was so happy. I never went to school even one day. I didn’t know anything about school. I started right away with basic literacy and I have tried to never miss a class.

I couldn’t write my name and I didn’t understand anything, but I kept going even when my husband got angry. My kids pushed me and encouraged me and they helped me practice my letters. The monitor, Christa, told me to keep writing every day even when I didn’t understand.

I can write my name now, and I write it everywhere. Imagine, I used to go to Port-au-Prince to buy and I couldn’t read the bags and I felt lost. I couldn’t keep track of what I bought. The drivers sometimes would take my boxes off the truck and give them to someone else, but I didn’t know until I got all the way home. Now, I can’t lose anything. Now I write my name on every box and I know what I buy.

I finished Alfa Baz and Alfa Pos and then I went to the Health Program, too. I still don’t know many things, so I want to keep going. I take my notebook to my school and I write in it because one day I hope to read and understand everything. I bought two books in the market and my kids help me read them.

I work hard in the market so that I can repay my loans, keep going to school and so that my kids have that chance, too. If my parents would have sent me to school, I would have thrown a party for them to say thank you.[1]

The Microcredit Summit was launched to multiply stories like this 100 million times, but a number of barriers continue to impede the Campaign’s success.

Read the 2005 Report.


Footnote

[1] From the Fonkoze website www.fonkoze.org.

How you can influence global policy priorities at the World Bank (event)

RESULTS is hosting its 35th annual International Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington DC from July 18th to July 21st, featuring many leading poverty experts, activists. and policy makers.

Join us at the 2015 RESULTS International Conference in Washington, D.C., this July 18-21. Leading poverty experts, activists, policymakers, and YOU will convene for a unique conference that mixes an educational experience and advocacy opportunities around increased access to education, health, and economic opportunity. Together, we can change the world!

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In just two weeks, RESULTS Educational Fund, the parent organization of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, will celebrate its 35th anniversary with the 2015 International Conference in Washington, D.C. We invite you to join in the festivities and attend our workshop called “Partnerships to End Poverty: Health, Government, and Financial Services” on Sunday, July 19th at 4:30 – 6:00 PM. The conference will be held at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill.

Only $85 a day!

RESULTS International Conference — only $85 a day!

Attendees of the International Conference will hear from leading experts, activists, and policymakers on the challenges and solutions to ending poverty. Join World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus (and, of course, founder of the Grameen Bank). Find out who else will be speaking here.

The conference agenda is designed to provide the information and tools to influence policymakers — so you can deliver the message directly to your representative on Capitol Hill and policymakers at the World Bank and USAID!

The Microcredit Summit Campaign’s role at RESULTS is to lift up financial inclusion solutions designed for the world’s extreme poor, creating economic opportunities to help lift themselves out of poverty. The Campaign will be leading a workshop at the International Conference about the future of financial inclusion.

Our session, entitled Partnerships to End Poverty: Health, Government, and Financial Services,” will focus on integrated health and microfinance and linking the graduation model and conditional cash transfers (CCTs). Learn why these are key pathways to help end extreme poverty and how you can influence the global development agenda. (Read more about the six pathways.)

Sonja Kelly of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion will moderate a panel discussion with Olumide Elegbe of FHI 360 and our own Dr. DSK Rao and Larry Reed. Join us to develop your message and advocacy strategy around financial inclusion to end extreme poverty, and take it directly to major financial inclusion funders like the World Bank and USAID to influence their programmatic priorities in the over coming years.

About the panelists


Sonja Kelly, Fellow, CFI

Sonja Kelly is a fellow at the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION (@CFI_ACCION). She conducts research on supply and demand side opportunities to advance financial inclusion around the world, including income growth, demographic change, and policy shifts. Ms. Kelly is finishing her PhD at the School of International Service at American University, writing her dissertation on financial inclusion policy and regulation in low and middle income economies. Her research articulates the ways that international organizations and internal politics influence financial sector policy. She is also a consultant at the World Bank and the president of the DC chapter of Women Advancing Microfinance. Prior to joining CFI, Ms. Kelly worked in microfinance at Opportunity International.

Olumide Elegbe Olumide Elegbe, senior relationship manager at FHI 360, is a health and development expert with demonstrated results of building successful partnerships across sectors and geographies. With a focus on forging trusted, long term partnerships between the government, nonprofit and private sectors, Mr. Elegbe has a track record of brokering collaborative partnerships that drive social change by addressing health, education, sustainability and/or other development challenges. This, while delivering results and outcomes tailored to suit the needs of stakeholder individuals and organizations including market access, efficiencies in supply chain, and contribution to local GDP.

Mr. Elegbe has extensive international and cultural experience, spanning sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern and Western Europe as well as the USA. Prior to joining FHI 360, he worked as a public health specialist and a visiting lecturer in population medicine in the United Kingdom, and as technical advisor on public health programs in Nigeria.

Mr. Elegbe holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health with a minor in Health Services Management from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom.

Dr. D.S.K. Rao, Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Dr. DSK Rao has been the regional director for the Asia-Pacific region with the Microcredit Summit Campaign since 2000. The Campaign draws heavily on his wide experience and familiarity with the sector while organizing the regional and global summits. Dr. Rao has conducted scores of workshops and trainings on tools for practitioners in Asia to track poverty and other social outcomes including the Cashpor Household Index, Poverty Wealth Ranking, and the Progress out of Poverty Index. Dr. Rao is presently implementing a Johnson & Johnson-funded project for integrating health with microfinance in India, in collaboration with Freedom from Hunger. He has co-authored two books on microfinance: The New Middlewomen and Development and Divinity and Dharma.

Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Larry Reed has headed up the Microcredit Summit Campaign (@MicroCredSummit) since taking over the reins from founder, Sam Daley-Harris in 2011. Mr. Reed has co-authored the annual State of the Campaign Report for the last 5 years. He has worked for more than 25 years in designing, supporting, and leading activities and organizations that empower poor people to transform their lives and their communities. For the majority of that time, Reed worked with Opportunity International, including five years as their Africa regional director and eight years as the first CEO of the Opportunity International Network.


Our workshop will be held on Sunday, July 19th
from 4:30 – 6:00 PM
.

To attend the workshop and the International Conference, email IC2015[at]results.org
or register online

Daily registration is only $85.

RESULTS is an international movement of grassroots advocates raising their voices to end poverty. Through government program and policy advocacy, RESULTS staff and its massive network of grassroots activists help to address the root causes of poverty: lack of access to medical care, education, and opportunity to move up the economic ladder. Click here to read more about RESULTS.


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Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty:

The Puzzle of Poverty: Embera Puru Edition

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>>Authored by Kristin Smith, Program Intern for the 100 Million Project

jjjjJust a few weeks before joining the Microcredit Summit Campaign team, I traveled with Global Brigades to teach financial literacy workshops and provide microenterprise consulting to small business owners in an indigenous community in Panama.

The program, founded in 2003, sends university students from the United States and select European countries on a series of brigades to Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Ghana to “strengthen the health and economic development of communities” by meeting a certain aspect of their “holistic model.” Learn more.

Their holistic model attempts to assess and address the most dire needs of developing communities in an intentionally sequenced process to help them achieve a state of sustainable self-sufficiency.

Panama holistic model

Click on image to see in expanded view

Under the holistic model developed specifically for Panama, the process begins with Global Brigades employees researching the region and evaluating the community through a process of “integrated community development” to understand its most pressing needs.

Initially, the program sends medical and dental brigades — passionate volunteers working to mobilize positive social change — to the communities to provide mobile medical and dental clinics. Community banks are then established by a group of community members with guidance from Global Brigades staff to encourage saving for health needs and emergencies. Once established, the community banks begin distributing loans to community members for environmental projects and new business developments.

My brigade, composed of my colleagues from the University of California-Berkeley and others from Arizona State University, was excited to complete the Global Brigades puzzle (that is, the holistic model). Our role was to teach financial literacy and perform business consultations in the community of Embera Puru.

Embera Puru is an indigenous community of some 250 individuals in the Darien Province. Located in Eastern Panama near the Colombian border. Embera Puru is an Embera community, one of the largest indigenous groups in Panama and Colombia. The community members’ main source of income is agriculture, producing crops such as plantains, yucca, rice, and otoe (a local root vegetable), and creating artisan handicrafts.

With guidance from Global Brigades, the community established a caja rural (community bank) to encourage savings and loan making within the community. Embera Peru’s caja now has 21 members with 21 active savings accounts, but there are still many among the 266 inhabitants without this means to save.

Comparable to a savings group, a caja rural is a group of men and women who pool their funds to create a solid financial base, providing savings and loan services for themselves and for the entire community. Despite the initial contributions of Global Brigades, the caja is entirely owned and operated by members of the community.

Because the indigenous communities of Panama are predominantly closed economies, community groups eschew money from the outside and make weekly savings deposits into the community bank to begin their work. Group members manage the fund themselves, make decisions about who can receive loans and under what terms, and hold each other accountable for loan repayment.

As part of our business consultation work, we met with representatives from the community’s “Environmental Committee,” a group of farmers producing beyond self-sufficiency for distribution within the community, to ask simple questions to best understand the level of business assistance they needed.

The president of this group, a man by the name of Marcelino, also happens to be the treasurer of the caja rural, as well as a community teacher. Through conversation with Marcelino, we learned that his bookkeeping records won their bank a prize for “Caja with the best bookkeeping management” at a board of directors microfinance workshop in Panama City.

Analyzing the business’s books and records, we found a very thorough system and were stumped on how else to proceed with our consultation. (Aside from our recommendation that they include an inventory management system in preparation for increased production.) Not long into our conversation with these experienced committee leaders about potential business obstacles, we found ourselves confronted with an irritated committee leader and community elder who expressed his frustration with the focus of our questions and our work.

He argued that the group’s record-keeping strategies were highly insignificant in comparison to the group’s utter lack of inventory. It turns out that there was a community water shortage resulting from a collapsed well and a series of unfinished agricultural projects throughout the farm.

“Money,” he said. “We need your help on the farm, we need more crops, and we need money.” My observation was that the present infrastructure severely lacked sufficient capital to support a self-interacting and self-sustaining community.

As I sit now at my desk here in Washington, D.C., far removed from this man and his community, I face the internal debate of whether our work and efforts in microfinance are indeed meeting the direst needs of these people. My short time in Panama reinforced my understanding that development is a puzzle that we do not always equip ourselves to solve. Regardless of the practicality of the services we were working to provide, if other pieces of the complex puzzle are not fully in place, the outcomes in general are undermined.

Increased financial access serves as the window of opportunity for many entrepreneurs throughout the developing world, but without the proper environment and sufficient infrastructure, access to money is rather trivial.

Prioritizing the views, aspirations, and goals of clients or other program beneficiaries is critical as well. As economist William Easterly often argues, no matter how well-intentioned our efforts, without proper feedback from those receiving the assistance, how are we to measure the effectiveness and progress of our efforts? Under my interpretation, Global Brigades was not responsive to the needs and aspirations of its clients.

While the Embera Puru puzzle remains unsolved because the other pieces were never correctly and fully placed, I am glad to know that the industry and many of its institutions are making great strides towards increased attention to feedback from clients and beneficiaries as well as accountability of institutions to deliver on their objectives. Despite the puzzle’s sheer complexity, we have all the pieces and the ability to work with the poor to solve it.

I encourage Global Brigades to join the Microcredit Summit Campaign in making a specific, measurable, and time-bound Commitment on their efforts to end extreme poverty.

Related reading

Equitas commits to improve focus on clients and service coverage

Read the press release announcing Equitas’ Campaign Commitment
Read their Commitment letter
Photo courtesy of Equitas

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes Equitas, a major Indian microfinance institution (MFI), as the 56th organization to make a Campaign Commitment, joining a global coalition working to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Equitas is committing to expand its financial services and non-financial services to the following number of clients in the financial year 2015-2016 :

  • Provide 1.5 million clients with financial services.
  • Cover 70,000 clients under the food security program.
  • Cover 50,000 clients under the health education program.
  • Screen the health of 850,000 clients.
  • Partner hospitals will provide 3,000 Equitas clients discounted consultation/ treatment.
  • Use the Progress out of Poverty Index to measure the poverty level of 1.5 million clients.
  • Provide financial support to 3,000 disabled women.
  • Rehabilitate 200 homeless pavement dwellers.
  • Screen, educate, and track the health of 3,500 students in the 6 schools run by Equitas Trust.
  • Provide gainful employment to 15,000 unemployed youth.
  • Train 50,000 women in new skills to increase their income.

P.N. Vasudevan, founder and managing director of Equitas Micro Finance India P. Ltd., explains their mission and how they support the well-being of their clients:

“When we founded Equitas in 2007, we wanted to create an MFI which would be a global benchmark in fairness and transparency, two facets sadly missing from most of the MFIs globally.  Equitas is a Latin word meaning ‘Equitable,’ which means fair and transparent, and this philosophy is woven into every action of Equitas.  Equitas had started lending at 25.5% in 2007 (at a time when the other MFI rates were in the high thirties) and after 4 years, Reserve Bank of India capped the lending rate for MFIs in India at 26%! The Equitas Ecosystem Model is designed to support the well-being of our clients by providing financial and non financial services with a clear focus to address a large spectrum of their requirements in the field of health, education, skill development, food security during emergencies, placement for unemployed youth and many more.”

Equitas is an NBFC MFI with headquarters at Chennai, India, and operations in eight states, namely Tamil Nadu, Pondy, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chattisgarh. Equitas has about 2.8 million active borrowers as of 31st March, 2015. Along with financial services, Equitas is also promoting several non-financial services aiming at holistic development of their clients and their families.

Read Commitment Letter from Equitas.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign looks forward to welcoming our new partners to the global coalition and sharing their progress towards the Commitment achievement at the 18th Microcredit Summit. The Campaign’s 100 Million Project is building a movement among financial service stakeholders committed to helping to end extreme poverty through: public statements of commitment to action, expanding practices to reliably measure movement out of extreme poverty, and promoting innovations and best practices to accelerate movement out of poverty.


We invite you to join Equitas and…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty:

“By the Numbers”: Financial inclusion still limited for the hardest-to-reach

CFI_by_the_numbers_FINAL-fig08

Figure 8 in By the Numbers shows the projected size of the excluded population by country in 2020. Download the full report.
Click on the image to zoom in.

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>>By Jesse Marsden. Jesse is the program manager for the 100 Million Project at the Microcredit Summit Campaign.

Bravo to the Center for Financial Inclusion’s (CFI) latest By the Numbers report. It does an excellent job of succinctly parsing a large amount of information in such a way that makes the implications of that information quite accessible. Here’s our key takeaway from the report:

We are making the least progress on the hardest-to-reach groups, and unless the financial inclusion community works together to develop a strategy for reaching those groups, there is no way we can meet the goal of full financial inclusion by 2020.

To begin with, we need to address the fact that the rate of improvement reported in the Global Findex seems likely to be overstated. CFI refers, in By the Numbers, to the criticism levied by Daniel Roodman and Daniel Rozas against the claims of this year’s Findex. They very clearly lay out how the differences between the 2011 and 2014 Findex questionnaire could have an inflationary impact on estimating progress.

Of particular interest to the Campaign is how the report demonstrates the unequal gains in access (what CFI calls “access gaps”) for certain segments of the population. The Campaign has a particular focus on understanding financial inclusion efforts as a piece of a larger effort to build pathways that help those in extreme poverty better manage the risks they face and seize on opportunities they find. In this light, it is worrisome that the progress reported by the Findex, and illuminated in By the Numbers, demonstrates that for those living in extreme poverty — often the hardest-to-reach — financial inclusion is still quite limited.

While the overall increase in financial access reported by the Findex was 20 percent, access has improved little or not at all for women since 2011 and there was no change in access for those without secondary education. Rural populations saw an increase in access by a mere 2 percent, and those aged 15 to 25 saw only a 3 percent gain. The wealthiest 60 percent of the population had faster gains in access than that of the poorest 40 percent, who saw only a 6 percent change.

Source: CFI, By The Numbers

Source: Center for Financial Inclusion, By The Numbers

We need a bottom-up strategy

The overall picture we get from CFI’s analysis is that very little of the progress being reported has been among the hardest-to-reach groups. This points to a central weakness of the strategies being employed by the World Bank and others. Most are top-down strategies trying to extend the reach of existing services to new populations. This means they are employing an overall strategy for increasing access that must slow, and eventually crawl to a stop, as it gets to less populated areas and poorer communities where top down approaches become less affordable to implement.

At the Microcredit Summit Campaign we firmly believe full financial inclusion will require a different approach: one that starts with the hardest-to-reach segments of the population and works its way back. It is relatively easier to add features and services to attract higher income groups once you have designed a service that reaches the lowest margin customer first. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to sufficiently reduce costs of a service or product originally designed to reach middle income customers so that it is affordable to the poorest.

If we want to reach full financial inclusion by 2020, the leaders in the financial inclusion movement should be agreeing on who are the hardest to reach and what are ways to begin reaching them now. Thanks to the work from CFI, we know in broad categories who the hardest to reach will be: the extreme poor, women, and those living in rural or remote regions. We will be able to move beyond these general categories to more specific population segments when the World Bank releases the full Findex micro-data in October.

The Campaign wants to work with CFI, the World Bank (including Group members like the IFC), the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, and others to develop the strategies to reach the hard-to-reach groups.

In April, the Campaign introduced six “pathways” to reach the extreme poor and to help them move out of poverty. They are our proposal for the types of interventions we should focus on:

  1. Agricultural value chains
  2. The graduation approach
  3. Savings groups
  4. Conditional cash transfers
  5. Integrated health and microfinance
  6. Mobile platforms linked with agent networks

While these six pathways are not the only financial inclusion interventions, they are some of the more effective interventions currently in use. (This post from April outlines why each of these six pathways matter to the overall picture.)

Mapping target populations and successful programs

So the question becomes, how do we as diverse stakeholders work together to develop strategies that can address the “access gaps” in By the Numbers? Stakeholders working with data, such as the Campaign, World Bank, Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX), IFC, Finclusion Lab, and others, should begin mapping where these population segments live. We can then layer onto the map those stakeholders, projects, and partnerships that are successfully reaching the hard-to-reach. New collaborations should be created to expand work where populations are not being served.

On the flip side, we should also identify existing programs that are not reaching the hardest-to-reach and ask why they are not. What are the constraints holding back progress in these areas? Is it a misalignment of the regulatory framework? Is the program or intervention failing to use a reliable metric to target its activities? Are there critical stakeholders missing from the implementation equation?

Mapping the location of populations who face more and more challenging obstacles to using appropriate financial tools to support their movement out of poverty is an important step to understanding whether interventions are working in the right places. More specifically, it will also help identify programmatic challenges and, therewith, more relevant solutions to those challenges.

This is a process that will take time, and 2020 is only five years away. Ensuring access is an important first step, but that step must be taken in a way that looks and plans several steps ahead. Moreover, the Campaign is deeply invested in ensuring that the hardest-to-reach not only have access to appropriate financial services, but that those services have a demonstrable effect in support of those individuals’ movement out of extreme poverty. Therefore, if we are to ensure that financial inclusion indeed includes the hardest-to-reach and that it is a major step to ending extreme poverty, we must begin to intentionally develop strategies that work towards these goals in tandem now.

This will require that global players in this movement learn from those who are having success in reaching the poorest and most marginalized, support their efforts, and replicate their strategies. More importantly, we must learn together how we can provide the sort of services that will help those at the bottom of the economy reduce vulnerability and take advantage of opportunity. We look forward to working with CFI and others to make this happen. We invite you to get inspired by our coalition of Commitment makers, set your own goal to help end poverty, and make a Campaign Commitment.

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