#tbt: Digital services to reach the unreachable at the 2013 Summit

Reaching Deeper_Speakers_641x280

Speakers in the “Reaching Deeper and Lowering Costs: The Path ahead for Digital Services” plenary session at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit in Manila, Philippines. We learned how mobile devices can help provide better options to those who are reliant upon riskier, costlier options.

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


Highlighting technology innovations in the microfinance sector, the plenary session “Reaching Deeper and Lowering Costs: The Path ahead for Digital Services” at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit was moderated by our very own Sabina Rogers, filling in for Karen Dávila, noted Philippine broadcast journalist.

It was a fun session, using visual aids to represent certain aspects of a value chain for delivering mobile and financial services. A house represented the client and the start of the digital transaction value chain; then images showed the mobile interface for conducting transactions; a sari-sari represented an agent kiosk; a net represented both communications networks as well as financial networks; and a bank stood in for a variety of types of financial institutions.

Speakers were asked to make use of the array to help them illustrate where the companies and organizations the represented fit into the value chain.

Reaching Deeper_Gordon Cooper+Raj Singh-Khaira_341x227

Gordon Cooper, Head of Emerging Market Solutions, APCEMEA, VISA, and Raj Singh-Khaira, Vice President, RM & Consumer Services, FINO PayTech

Nadeem Hussein of Tameer Microfinance Bank (Pakistan) led off the discussion demonstrating how Tameer had a role in supporting a number of points along the value chain overall from understanding the consumer landscape to developing mobile transaction interfaces including working with agents, and all as a financial institution.

Raj Singh-Khaira of FINO PayTech (India) and focused on the need for institutions like his to diversify their involvement in a number of ways along the value chain because “the market is not mature enough for us to be just this one component…the agent kiosk in this example.” He pointed to the wide array of services FINO provides to achieve this diversity including a number of types of savings products, insurance, and some loans.

FINO serves over 67 million clients and employs more than 50,000 agents. Technology is important to help reach this kind of scale as opposed to manual transactions. He also mentioned the ability to better track and secure transactions through the use of digital means of transacting.

The role of VISA was presented by Gordon Cooper. “Visa is a Network, a network service provider. It’s all about interoperability,” cited Cooper; continuing, he described a project VISA launched several years ago which focused on finding one key way VISA could contribute to increasing access to formal financial services for low income individuals.

The result: launching mVISA in Rwanda, a mobile transactions platform (see this video). He focused on the necessity of interoperability, which refers to the ability of one financial service provider’s platform to link up with others’ platforms in order to enable customers on different networks or in different financial systems to transact. Increasing interoperability as a means to support wider access will be one major focus for VISA in the digital area.

Napoleon Nazareno of Smart Communications, one of the largest mobile network operators working in the Philippines, echoed Khaira. Smart is not isolated to only providing mobile phone connectivity, but also goes beyond to touch on all aspects of the value chain. Beginning more than a decade ago, Smart launched a small mobile banking service platform. By partnering with financial service providers over the years, this has now grown into a full-fledged mobile microfinance service platform.

Reaching Deeper_Ian Radcliffe_233x326

Ian Radcliffe, Director, WSBI-ESBG

Ian Radcliffe of WSBI illustrated their role in supporting the actors involved in the value chain as direct service providers. Their core activity is advocacy, but apart from that, they also deliver training and consultancy services to providers.

He highlighted an initiative begun about four years ago, to understand what it would it take to double the number of savings accounts among poor people. This launched the WSBI savings account program, which is now working with banks in 10 countries to develop and improve agent banking models and mobile banking models now, too.

Nazareno summarized the session nicely at one point during the presentations, pointing to the power of digital channels for reaching the financially exclude citing recent national survey in the Philippines.

He said, “80% of the households in the Philippines don’t have a bank account. On the other hand, 90% of Filipinos have a cell phone,” which highlights the viability of using mobile devices to provide financial services to those who would otherwise remain excluded. Mobile devices can help provide better options to those who are reliant upon riskier, costlier options, and, ultimately, ones that would stand in the way of their journey out of poverty.

Reaching Deeper_audience_408x326

A participant at the 2013 Summit was having a great time.

Partnerships against Poverty Summit Banner with logos
Watch the full video of this plenary

Video Corner | Tarik Sayed Harun on reducing poverty in Bangladesh

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Tarik Sayed Harun, assistant director of the core program for COAST Trust (Coastal Association for Social Transformation) in Bangladesh, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.


Tarik Sayed Harun of COAST Trust (Bangladesh) discusses 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. Harun explains that the poverty rate in Bangladesh has been reduced by 10 percent over the past five years. He suggests that recent research showing that microfinance in Bangladesh contributes approximately 10 percent to the nation’s GDP supports his contention that microfinance has a strong role to contribute to ending poverty.

“[The 18th Microcredit Summit] is very good opportunity to learn from each other and about very good practices from around the world,” said Harun. “We are trying to learn from the good practices and to implement them in our country, my organization. Overall our one commitment is to reduce poverty, so this is a very good opportunity to learn from each other.”

Sohelia Haque: MFIs better serve the poor than traditional banks

Gallery

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Sohelia Naznin Haque screenshot
Sohelia Naznin Haque of Society for Development Initiatives (Bangladesh) discusses 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.

Haque echoed Dr. Muhammed Yunus, supporting the goals of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and financial inclusion through technological advancement. She explains how SDI reaches the poor in a way that big banks do not, going to their homes and visiting rural areas.

“We go to them, think about or listen to their demands, needs, motives, drives. According to that, we make our microfinance products and try fulfill their demands,” said Haque. “[Commercial] banks’ interest rates are too high, but our interest rates are not too high according to the demand we provide them.”

Español | Français | Continue reading

Sneak peek of the 2015 State of the Campaign Report

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

The map on the right illustrates the prevalence of below $1.90 per day poverty in rural areas. Source: Adapted from World Bank Data (online), 2015, "Rural Population (% of total population)," http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS; and ibid., "Poverty gap at $1.90 a day (PPP 2011) (%)," http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GAPS.
The World Bank and the United Nations have both set their sights on ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. The Bank has also set a concomitant target of universal financial access by 2020 as a major contributor to ending extreme poverty. Our assessment, after reviewing the contributions that microfinance institutions and other financial providers have made toward these two goals, is this: if financial services are meant to play an important part in bringing an end to extreme poverty, we will not come close to reaching it.

Microfinance has demonstrated the viability of providing financial services to people in poverty and technological advances have drastically reduced the cost of providing financial services. But, we still do not see widespread adoption of financial services among the largest groups of those that still need to be reached: those living in extreme poverty.

Español | Français | Continue reading

Mental health matters for microfinance

psychologyofscarcity_top

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


>>Authored by Bobbi Gray, Research Director, Freedom from Hunger

First of all, a disclaimer. I am by no means a mental health expert. Like many, I’ve had my own experiences which have led to interests into the causes and impacts of mental health issues as well as the coping mechanisms we might use when we or someone we know suffers from a mental illness.

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, as you might know, and it has reminded me of a conversation that Josh Goldstein, vice president of economic citizenship and disability inclusion at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion, and I started a while back. A conversation that also led to an exchange of ideas on his blog post “4 interventions to help victims of trauma find hope and dignity” in which he summarized his remarks at the 8th Annual PCAF Pan-African Psychotrauma Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya. (Josh’s full conference remarks can be found here.) During this conference, Josh tried to answer the question of whether microfinance institutions (MFIs) can help victims of trauma who suffer from mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to find hope and dignity through self-employment.

In his post, Josh suggests steps to be taken by our sector to be inclusive of those suffering from mental health disorders. In this post, I’ll address two of those steps:

  1. More linkages between mental health providers and MFIs can take place such that people have access to financial services and business and financial training.
  2. Create a set of global standards and indicators for MFIs and other financial service providers to follow that will establish the importance of and offer guidance on serving PTSD survivors and other persons with psycho-social disabilities.

While Freedom from Hunger works actively with our partners to link their clients to health service providers through our integrated approach, I can’t speak yet to having a lot of success on Josh’s first step above — i.e. the specific linkage to mental health service providers. Though this doesn’t mean there aren’t already bright spots. This (really interesting) Freakonomics podcast discusses how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and cash transfers are being combined for child soldiers in Liberia. Spoiler alert, CBT plus cash transfers leads to men staying out of trouble, compared to getting only CBT or only a cash transfer.

On Josh’s second point, regarding the need to start by understanding and measuring the extent of psycho-social disabilities, we’re just dipping our toes in the water.

In the paper we produced called “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: How Microfinance Can Track the Health of Clients,” in which we share experiences in selecting and pilot-testing our Health Outcome Performance Indicators (HOPI) among MFIs, some of our initial testing around mental health indicators was limited and was initially driven by the acknowledgement that consequences of domestic violence should be better understood and tracked.

Since the publication of that paper, we’ve conducted research in Burkina Faso with 46 women that we followed over a 7-month period to better understand resilience. We tried to look at resilience holistically and included “attitude” questions in all 10 surveys we conducted. One survey focused entirely on attitudes and perceptions of one’s life. We pulled heavily from research conducted by Johannes Haushofer, who is a professor and researcher of psychology and public affairs at Princeton. He took variables from a World Values Survey and compared them to poverty status.

In the research in Burkina Faso, we compared self-perceived resilience status (i.e., “Based on what you consider to be a resilient household, do you believe your household is resilient?”) to a series of indicators, approximately 14 of which were attitude/perception indicators. We found that those who considered themselves resilient were also likely to report feeling supported, hopeful, capable of meeting one’s financial obligations, trustful of others, and not living one’s life “day to day.” They reported that they would try anything to improve their life. (This research will be available by the end of October through CGAP).

These indicators are just one slice of mental health — but it is a starting point. We have Haushofer’s research as well as our simple forays into developing the HOPI, which we think MFIs can use to measure and monitor client status. Given this headway, I think we all can have a greater appreciation of the power that positive or negative mental health can have on a person’s productivity and their likelihood of success with the types of financial tools we can provide.

For microfinance and beyond, I think we have the research we need to argue that mental health matters. (See this recently published paper in the Lancet regarding mental health research in Europe.) The direct costs (i.e., healthcare costs and productivity losses) and the indirect costs (i.e., wage and productivity losses of caregivers and family members) can be significant.

And mental health matters even if we’re not distinguishing between people with diagnosed mental health impairments versus the mental health challenges poverty often creates. In fact, in the book Scarcity by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, we are challenged to recognize this. They explain how “scarcity captures the mind. The mind orients automatically, powerfully, toward unfulfilled needs. Scarcity…changes the way we think. It imposes itself on our mind. The consequence of having less than we want is simple: we are unhappy.”

I think we’ve all had periods of our life in which we can relate to what mental distress feels like. Your mental bandwidth is limited, and its hard to feel hopeful when you’re going through a trial. I wonder if we should assume that the starting point is that all clients we serve could benefit from mental health support given what we know about the psychology of poverty. Everyone deserves a financial product or process that helps them through life’s short and long-term crises — whether it’s a purely economic crisis, a visible health crisis like dealing with cancer, or a mental health crisis that has no obvious cause.

Obviously, this is easier said than done. But, over time, I’ve come to really value and appreciate what the mental health and psychosocial indicators can tell me about a person’s life. Even if a person’s poverty status hasn’t changed but their belief that their life is better and more manageable, I can see where that can be considered success.

psychologyofscarcity_v2Related reading

Rating progress toward financial inclusion on a scale of 1 to 10

fi2020 progress report homepage2

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


The Microcredit Summit Campaign is delighted to support CFI’s efforts to track the progress of the Financial Inclusion 2020 project. In contribution to the “Financial Inclusion 2020 Progress Report,” we recently conducted a series of interviews with microfinance leaders around the world who are committed to reaching the most marginalized. Read “Addressing the financial needs of the most excluded” to hear directly from practitioners engaged in this work. Elisabeth Rhyne believes you will be both astonished by the progress and daunted by the gaps that remain” in financial inclusion. Read her post below and visit the interactive Progress Report website to take part in this financial inclusion diagnosis.


The following blog post was originally published
by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

>>Authored by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, Center for Financial Inclusion

Today the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) is proud to launch the Financial Inclusion 2020 Progress Report, an interactive website that portrays the recent progress and unmet challenges on the path to global financial inclusion.

When we began the FI2020 project in 2011, we hoped to create a sense of both urgency and possibility. We believed that enabling everyone in the world to gain access to quality financial services was a goal of major development significance. We also saw that with many active players and the promise that digitization would enable many more people to be reached at lower cost, it was no longer simply wishful thinking to call for full inclusion within a reasonable timeframe. Global financial inclusion had entered the realm of the possible.

Today, in 2015, we are both astonished by the progress and daunted by the gaps that remain. Global Findex data shows 700 million new accounts in the three years from 2011 to 2014, reducing the number of unbanked worldwide from 2.5 to 2 billion. National governments have created ambitious financial inclusion strategies, the FinTech industry is exploding with $12 billion in global investments in 2014 alone, and the World Bank has a plan for reaching universal financial access to transaction accounts by 2020.

Our quantitative review, By the Numbers revealed that if the current trajectory of expansion in accounts continues, many countries will achieve full account access by 2020. The rails are being laid at a rapid rate, and there is great momentum toward universal access. But access to an account is not the same thing as financial inclusion, and progress toward meaningful financial inclusion, in which people actively use a full range of services, is lagging. The passengers — customers — are often still waiting at the station for services that take them where they want to go.

With assurance of great momentum around access, CFI believes that the time is right to turn greater attention to quality and value for the customer, which are the genuine heart of financial inclusion. In the Progress Report, you will find a recurring concern with the customer side of the equation. Meeting the customer challenge requires everyone — national policymakers, regulators, financial service providers of all types, non-profits, and global bodies — to step up. The challenges range from protecting consumers in the digital age, to building financial capability, to creating services that enable customers to meet important life goals.

As you read the Progress Report you will see just how many players are actively pursuing these goals in innovative ways all over the world. We cite and celebrate dozens of examples. Nevertheless, we find that in many areas, such as financial capability, the level of effort is not yet commensurate with the challenge at hand, and large shifts are called for, both in deployment of resources and in assignment of roles and responsibilities. For example, we find that meaningful financial inclusion requires providers to take on greater responsibility for customer value.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


In the Progress Report, we present our assessment of progress toward global financial inclusion through the lens of five topics that will shape its future: Financial Capability, Addressing Customer Needs, Technology, Credit Reporting and Data Analytics, and Consumer Protection. The report provides a qualitative and interactive assessment of who is doing what, as a companion piece to By the Numbers. The FI2020 Progress Report celebrates the most significant accomplishments, and highlights the gaps that create the agenda for the coming years.

Aside from the content of the Progress Report, we are excited to share with you the format for its presentation. Rather than producing a traditional document, the report takes the form of an interactive website, which allows you to move from topic to topic according to your own interest, and which allows us to bring you many specific examples and graphic illustrations in sidebars throughout the report. We hope you enjoy the format. (If you prefer a traditional PDF, that is also available.)

To provoke a conversation, we have rated progress in each area on a scale of 1 and 10, and we explain why we chose that score. We invite you to use the interactive feature on the website to cast your own vote and compare your scores to ours. Go ahead, disagree with us! While we stand behind the research and analysis that went into our ratings, they are — of course! — our own, and they reflect a global look, which may vary greatly from one region or country to another.

Most of all, consider with us the ways to close the gaps so that each of the scores rises to 10. That’s the point of this exercise, after all: to diagnose where we are today in order to work toward a future of full, meaningful financial inclusion.

Addressing the financial needs of the most excluded

Anowara Begoum lives in Kazipara village. Anowara received a cow and goat to from BRAC through its STUP Special Targeting Ultra Poor. AusAID funds BRAC's work in Bangladesh, its estimated that BRAC works within 70,000 of Bangladesh's 86,000 villages. Photo: Conor Ashleigh for AusAID.

Anowara Begoum lives in Kazipara village. Anowara received a cow and goat to from BRAC through its STUP Special Targeting Ultra Poor. AusAID funds BRAC’s work in Bangladesh, its estimated that BRAC works within 70,000 of Bangladesh’s 86,000 villages. Photo: Conor Ashleigh for AusAID.

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


The following blog post was originally published
by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

>> Authored by Larry Reed, Director, the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and Jesse Marsden, Research and Operations Manager, the Microcredit Summit Campaign

In collaboration with the CFI’s process to develop the Financial Inclusion 2020 Progress Report (to be released October 1, 2015), the Microcredit Summit Campaign recently conducted interviews with microfinance leaders* around the world committed to reaching the most excluded. In this post, we share some of the insights from these conversations about how to ensure that the most invisible clients are financially included, directly drawn from the experiences of those who are doing it.

To set the stage, Luis Fernando Sanabria, general manager of Fundación Paraguaya, made this central point: “Our clients need to be the protagonists of their own development stories. Our products should be the tools they use to meet their needs and empower their aspirations.” With that reminder of the purpose of financial inclusion, we begin the discussion by asking who are the most excluded.

In each country, people living in extreme poverty (below US$1.25 a day) make up the largest segment of those excluded from the financial system. We spoke with leaders from organizations that make intentional efforts to reach this large excluded market: Fundación Paraguaya, Pro Mujer, Fonkoze, Plan Paraguay, Equitas, Grama Vidiyal, and TMSS. These organizations not only address poverty, but also a host of other dimensions that lead to exclusion, including literacy, race, gender, physical disabilities, and age. Less frequently-discussed reasons for exclusion include sexual orientation, language barriers (especially among indigenous populations), and mental or emotional health issues. In India and Bangladesh, for example, those interviewed noted that the lack of personal identification often drove exclusion, especially among women, persons with disabilities, and the socially excluded, such as transgender individuals.

In order to reach the most excluded, you have to know who they are. “Often the poorest families are invisible in their own communities,” said Steve Werlin of Fonkoze in Haiti. “When we do the wealth rankings in a community, they aren’t even mentioned.” Fonkoze takes steps to make sure that all households get included in their surveys so that the community can see who they have left out. Creating this visibility is essential. On a wider scale, in government statistics on economic activity, data on people over 65 is simply discarded or never collected.

Everyone, and every client, is unique. One of the messages of the FI2020 Progress Report is that the base of the pyramid (BoP) is not a monolithic bloc. Arjun Muralidharan of Grama Vidiyal in India noted, “You need to have a particular and unique strategy to seek out and serve these groups. This begins with deciding who you are going after. Different populations have very different problems.”

Two key elements for including the most excluded populations are building trust and overcoming prejudice. Not only do the financially excluded need to become confident in their services providers’ ability to responsibly manage their money, but they often have to become comfortable participating in a society that has regularly closed its doors to them.

“Working with disenfranchised groups is hard. We need to provide extra training and services to help overcome their self-exclusion,” said Muralidharan. Grama Vidiyal provides health services and legal rights training to members of the Dalit group (formerly known as untouchables) before including them in savings and lending groups.

On the other side of the equation are financial services staff attitudes. “In order to include people with disabilities, we need to train our staff first, to get them to overcome their prejudice,” said John Alex of Equitas in India. Equitas provides disability awareness training for its staff and clients and encourages them to find people with disabilities in their communities to include in the institution’s borrowing groups. Equitas also adapted its training and application systems to be accessible for people who are blind, deaf, mute, or face other physical limitations.

Excluded groups may have financial needs that do not fit the typical cash flows of other clients. TMSS asked rural farmers in northern Bangladesh what programs the farmers felt would be best to introduce. This client-first approach led to new programs that combined loans and savings in sync with the growing season. TMSS also changed its policies and products to meet the needs of an aging population — eliminating its age limit for borrowers. The institution also provides savings services for these clients and training for the next generation of family members to make sure they will be cared for as they age.

Those excluded from financial services often face many other types of exclusion as well, leaving them with a range of constraints that they need to address:

  • Both Fonkoze and Plan Paraguay employ the Ultra Poor Graduation Model developed by BRAC that provides a combination of cash transfers, training, savings, an asset, mentoring, and access to credit.
  • Equitas works with homeless people and provides housing and financial capacity training before providing loans.
  • TMSS provides health services, financial capability training, and vocational training.

These organizations often partner with the government and others to make sure their clients have access to the range of services they need. Fundación Paraguaya uses its Poverty Stoplight monitoring system to assess its clients on a checklist of 50 items related to poverty, health, education, and employment. It uses this data to bring in government services for common areas of need. Equitas partners with local hospitals, and Grama Vidiyal works with the government health insurance system to provide for the health needs of clients.

Achieving financial inclusion requires consistent energy to attain, maintain, and measure progress. Fundación Paraguaya uses its Stoplight system to enable clients to define and measure their own achievements over time, and provides incentives to its staff based on these clients’ achievements. Equitas provides incentives to its account officers for including persons with disabilities and measures the progress of its clients along consumption and health indicators. Plan Paraguay and Fonkoze measure the success of their ultra-poor graduation programs based on the numbers of clients who “graduate,” having met a comprehensive set of indicators related to food security, income security, asset ownership, school enrollment, housing quality, etc., and having reached a level at which they can use unsubsidized financial services.

Financial inclusion has always been about going where others wouldn’t go, addressing the needs of people who were excluded because it was too hard to serve them, or too risky, or too unsustainable. The people we spoke with represent the many financial pioneers who use innovation to expand the boundaries of inclusion, reaching those assumed to be impossible to reach.

For more on addressing client needs, check out the interactive FI2020 Progress Report, launching on Thursday (10/1).

Persons interviewed for this post: Luis Fernando Sanabria, Fundación Paraguaya; Carmen Velasco, co-founder of Pro Mujer; Steve Werlin, Fonkoze, Haiti; Mariella Greco, Plan Paraguay; John Alex, Equitas, India; Arjun Muralidharan, Grama Vidiyal, India; and Munnawar Reza, TMSS, Bangladesh.

Better health for every woman and every child in the Philippines

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


The maternal mortality rate in the Philippines is among the highest in Southeast Asia. To help improve maternal health in the Philippines, three development institutions have come together to implement the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay Project. Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign are partnering with CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to implement an 18-month project to provide access to health education and healthcare, build sustainability of such services, and document evidence of improved lives. The project is supported by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson.

More than 800,000 women have received vital information to ensure healthy pregnancies, and thousands more will. At community health fairs like you see in the short video above, thousands of women have received free OB/GYN consultations, have signed up for the national health insurance, PhilHealth, and have received free prenatal vitamins. We’re reaching for better health for every woman and every child. Join us.

Learn more

Philippines program provided 800,000+ women maternal health education and care

Summary:
CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and Freedom from Hunger announced that under the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies” program, some 800,000 women have received maternal health education in the past 5 months and 3600 women have received healthcare in the past 12 months. The project aims to improve maternal health alongside their microfinance services in the Philippines, accelerating achievement of UN Millennium Development Goal 5.


Lea en español *** Lisez en français


WASHINGTON, D.C. [September 24]—Partners in a joint-program aiming to improve maternal health in the Philippines announced today that they provided more than 800,000 women with maternal health services in the past year. CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and Freedom from Hunger began rolling out health education in April to poor and rural communities in Luzon, Mindanao, and, notably, the Visayas, which had catastrophic destruction in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

With the support of program partners, CARD MRI trained more than 1,000 account officers (AOs) in 14,650 centers to deliver the health education to CARD members. The AOs educated an average of 5,000 women per day over the last five months on important maternal health issues. Each woman received two hours of instruction on simple but important lessons like the food and nutritional supplements that pregnant and young women need and the importance of giving birth in a health facility.

“Helping poor communities through financial access is undeniably important in poverty eradication,” said Marilyn M. Manila, director of the Community Development Group at CARD MRI (a Filipino microfinance institution), “but this is insufficient to reach our goal. Poor health and having no access to health care service are a big part of continuous poverty in many countries. We realize the importance of good health of microfinance institutions’ (MFIs’) clients to help them continue improve their quality of life.” Ms. Manila also chairs the MFIs for Health, a consortium of 21 Filipino MFIs committed to providing access to health care services to poor communities.

At 30 years old, CARD MRI client Barrera is eight months pregnant with her fourth child. Barrera is one of the 3,634 women who received routine gynecological examinations and 2,222 mother and baby kits at four community health fairs over the last 12 months. Berrera attend the fair in Davao this July “for the ultrasound—to be able to see my baby. It was my first time.” More than 100 healthcare providers have participated in the four health fairs, and many more will. The next health fair will take place in very rural areas of Mindanao October 2nd and 3rd.

Community health fairs are important for improving maternal health in poor, rural communities where accessing health services is a challenge. Program partners organize health fairs with support from local foundations and professional associations like the Philippines OB/GYN Society, community health workers and private health providers, as well as the government: the Department of Health, local government units, and PhilHealth (the national insurance program).

Over the last 15 years, the Philippines has improved in many key indicators such as life expectancy, access to education, and infant mortality; however, maternal mortality has remained at unacceptably high levels. Delays in accessing medical care is a key bottleneck in achieving better results for mothers and babies. With 99 days to the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development on the horizon, this collaboration to educate about and expand access to health services is critical for meeting the needs of poor communities. This project is supported by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson.

###

About CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions
The CARD MRI is a group of mutually reinforcing institutions with a common goal of alleviating poverty in the Philippines and improving the quality of lives of the socially-and-economically challenged women and families towards nation building. Based in San Pablo City in Laguna in the Philippines, CARD MRI has 1,845 offices located all over the country and has program/partnership offices in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Hong Kong. CARD MRI has 2.99 million members and clients as of July 2015 throughout the country, continuously providing them holistic and integrated financial and social services that help uplift their lives and eventually transform them into responsible citizens for their community and their environment.
www.cardmri.com

About Freedom from Hunger
Founded in 1946, Freedom from Hunger is a US-based international development organization that brings innovative and sustainable self-help solutions to the fight against chronic hunger and poverty. By partnering with local microfinance institutions (MFIs) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, Freedom from Hunger is reaching 5.7 million women, equipping them with resources they need to build futures of health, hope and dignity.
www.freedomfromhunger.org

About the Microcredit Summit Campaign
The Microcredit Summit Campaign (the “Campaign”), a project of RESULTS Educational Fund, is the largest global network of institutions and individuals involved in microfinance and is committed to two important goals: 1) reaching 175 million of the world’s poorest families with microfinance and 2) helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. The Campaign convenes a broad array of actors involved with microfinance to promote best practices in the field, to stimulate the exchange of knowledge and to work towards alleviating world poverty through microfinance. In early 2016, the Microcredit Summit Campaign will host the 18th Microcredit Summit in Abu Dhabi. The agenda will focus on “Mapping Pathways out of Poverty” and will feature innovations from the Africa-Middle East Region.
www.microcreditsummit.org

Media Contact Information
Microcredit Summit Campaign
Sabina Rogers
Manager, Communications and Relationships
+1 (202) 637-9600
rogers@microcreditsummit.org
Freedom from Hunger
Piper Gianola
Senior Director, Development and Communications
+1 (530) 758-6200 x 1018
piper@freedomfromhunger.org
CARD MRI
Cleofe Montemayor-Figuracion
Deputy Director, Corporate Communications
+63 (49) 562-4309 local 108
corpcomm@cardbankph.com; cardmri.corpcomm@gmail.com

Post MDG-4: Integrating health services to reduce child mortality

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

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.


>>Authored by Carley Tucker and Sabina Rogers

MDG 4: Reduce child mortality

Target 4.A: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

The numbers appear heartening. According to the latest assessment on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), deaths of infants and children under five have greatly reduced. The under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half, from 90 to 43 deaths per 1000 births. Moreover, the annual rate of reduction in child deaths has more than doubled since 1990, and the rate has accelerated the most in Africa.

We learn that 4 out of every 5 of children have received at least one dose of the measles vaccine, preventing 15.6 million deaths between 2000 and 2013. In all, some 48 million children under five are alive today because of smart investments and increasing access to cost-effective health programs over the last 15 years.

This is good news for children around the world; however, underlying these advances is news that the achievements are not equitably distributed regionally, between rural and urban areas, nor socioeconomically.

Across all regions, progress toward MDG 4 has been “fair” to “excellent.” Furthest from reaching the target, though, are those living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. While sub-Saharan Africa has had the largest decline in child mortality rates, it still experiences half of all child deaths in the world. Of the 10 countries with the highest number of under-five deaths, 5 are in Africa: Nigeria (#2 at 750,000), DR Congo (#4 at 305,000), Ethiopia (#5 at 184,000), Angola (#7 at 169,000), and Tanzania (#10 at 98,000). See the full list in this infographic from Humanosphere.

Children living in rural areas are 1.7 times more likely to die than those living in urban populations. Child mortality is 1.9 times as prevalent among poor households as among wealthy. Those whose mothers lack education are 2.8 times more likely to die than if their mothers had reached the secondary or higher level. So, of the 16,000 children under five who die each day — mostly due to preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria — they are likely to be from poor, rural, and uneducated households.

Have we really made substantial progress achieving MDG 4 when young kids in rural and poor communities continue to be the ones more likely to die before their fifth birthday? Allowing this population to fall behind will only exacerbate the vicious cycle of poverty. In order to make permanent advances in reducing early deaths, global development actors need to narrow in on rural and impoverished areas, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Where do we go from here?

Recognizing the need for a renewed effort towards improving health of the poorest households, the Microcredit Summit Campaign has identified integration of health and microfinance programming as one of its six pathways strategies key to ending extreme poverty. Poverty is both a factor contributing to and consequence of illness and disease, so it is not enough for clients to have access to financial services. The microfinance sector must look for ways to integrate healthcare to their microfinance services. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) can provide health services directly or through linkages with healthcare programs.

Campaign believes that microfinance services provide an optimal place for healthcare. Many MFIs are reaching very rural communities — to say nothing of savings groups, which are primarily a rural financial tool. MFIs have developed trust relationships with families; they meet regularly with clients and can, therefore, pass along information like how to care for their children. In addition, since many MFIs serve regions in Africa and South Asia where child mortality rates are the highest, a strong focus on healthcare will allow these organizations to directly combat this issue in the most afflicted regions.

Microfinance clients must also have access to good healthcare in order to run their businesses, and a healthy lifestyle begins at birth. In the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay” project, microfinance clients are learning simple but important lessons like the food and nutritional supplements that pregnant and young women need and the importance of giving birth in a health facility. They are attending community health fairs organized by CARD MRI and partners, receiving free gynecological exams, urinalysis, and vitamins and supplements to improve their chances of delivering a healthy baby.

70 percent of maternal and child deaths now concentrated in just 16 countries, health and non-health investments such as sanitation, education, infrastructure and gender equality can potentially double the impact on lives saved.

70 percent of maternal and child deaths are now concentrated in just 16 countries. Investments in sanitation, education, infrastructure, and gender equality can potentially double the impact on lives saved. Go to the Newborn Survival Map to learn more.

Integrating health and microfinance services will also support the efforts of the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which are set to be approved at the Sustainable Development Summit September 25 to 27. The ambitious Goal 3 (“Good health and well-being”) includes ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age by reducing child mortality to 20 or fewer deaths per 1000 births by 2030. It also seeks to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention, treatment, and promotion of mental health and well being.

There also efforts underway in the United States to maximize future investments by US Agency for International Development (USAID). To reach the goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035, USAID has set bold, intermediate goals of saving 15 million child lives and 600,000 women’s lives by 2020. RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization, is lobbying for bipartisan legislation that will provide strong congressional oversight and ensure that “returns [are] measured in lives saved and healthy, prosperous communities.” (See the Fact Sheet.)

“We now have the chance to end these needless deaths in our lifetime,” said Joanne Carter, executive director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund (our parent organization). “The science shows we have the tools. That means in 2035 a child born in the poorest setting could have the same chance of reaching her fifth birthday as a child born in the richest.”

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.


Continue reading

Does anti-poverty work actually … work?

Photo credit: Giorgia Bonaga & Shamimur Rahman

Photo credit: Giorgia Bonaga & Shamimur Rahman

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


The following blog post is re-posted with permission. Read the original article on Next Billion, “NexThought Monday – Does Anti-Poverty Work Actually … Work?: Three questions every ‘pro-poor’ group needs to ask themselves.”


>>Authored by Chris Dunford and Carmen Velasco

This month, the United Nations will celebrate achievement of Millennium Development Goal No. 1. The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by more than half, from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. How did this happen? Is it because of targeted anti-poverty programs, or is it due to broad-based economic growth, especially in China and India? If economic growth is the main cause, as it seems to be, further progress may be doubtful. Economic growth alone is unlikely to reach the residual hundreds of millions still living in extreme poverty.

Nor is it likely that anti-poverty programs, whether public or private, will lift this “bottom billion” from extreme poverty. For example, the U.S. poverty rate hovers around 15 percent of the population, nearly unchanged for decades, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on U.S. anti-poverty programs. For another example, in poorer countries, microfinance was billed as a self-financing solution to deep poverty and became a darling of international development donors in the 1990s and “social investors” in the 2000s. Then smart social scientists tested the claims with sound field research and found little to no impact on poverty.

Is it reasonable, however, to expect anti-poverty programs, by themselves, to lift large numbers of people above an arbitrary poverty line? Given that the poor must overcome many burdens before they can seize whatever economic opportunities are available, perhaps we should ask a different question:

Do anti-poverty programs ease the burdens of poverty?

While the recent research into microfinance shows little to no increase of annual household income, on average, the same studies very often show that the burden of poverty is alleviated by giving microfinance participants access to money when they really need it during the year. Economists call this impact “consumption smoothing.” In plain terms, it means people get enough to eat throughout the year instead of going without adequate food for a day, a week, or even months at a time. If so, this is an impact worth celebrating, is it not?

Even with this more modest and realistic expectation, some anti-poverty programs are effective and some are not. We know this from our collective experience in anti-poverty work, with more than 70 years between us. We know the challenge is to distinguish what works from what does not. It is better to seek out “pro-poor” rather than “effective” anti-poverty work, because there are gradations of effectiveness. All programs have room to improve. “Pro-poor” programs actually strive to improve toward greater effectiveness. Transparency and accountability are not just about separating wheat from chaff; they are about improving.

How can we fully distinguish pro-poor programs from those that are not?

In a volunteer initiative called Truelift, leading thinkers of the “social performance” movement in microfinance (seeking social as well as financial return on investment) have hit upon a truth that applies to all anti-poverty work: Truly pro-poor programs provide the right answer to each of three straightforward questions.

First: Does the program work with people living in poverty?

Straightforward indeed! But how do you know a person living in poverty when you see one? More important: How does a program know them, recruit them, include them and keep others who are not poor from co-opting what the program offers?

Too many anti-poverty programs cannot answer this question. Regardless of legitimate reasons, these programs are flying blind in their poverty outreach and, therefore, their potential to impact poverty. “Blind” programs may be “wasting” precious resources on the “wrong” people — even though much good may be done. Such programs are not entitled to the “pro-poor” label — they need a different justification. Or, they can get serious about knowing the poverty status of the people they work with.

Second: Does the program design and adapt its services specifically for people living in poverty?

The staff of a pro-poor program changes and adapts the services and products they offer — intentionally and systematically, always listening carefully to people living in poverty and being clear about the benefits the program seeks to provide them. It is basic good business practice — know your customers, listen to them, design for them, satisfy them.

The Réseau des Caisses Populaires in Burkina Faso (RCPB) discovered while providing savings and credit services to groups of rural women that they wanted information about how to prevent and treat malaria, a disease that kills children and robs adults of far too many productive work days. At left, an RCPB animatrice (field agent) shows a women’s group how to understand the symbols on a take-home card that shows illiterate people how malaria is prevented and treated. (Image credit: Karl Grobl for Freedom from Hunger)

Third: Does the program track the progress of the people using its services?

It is not enough to reach out to people living in poverty and to design and adapt services to suit their needs and constraints. We must have some evidence that our work is helping them move in the right direction, even if not all the way to the intended destination. This is not just to show that our work is worthy of the money spent, but also to know how to improve our work. We need “real time” information about change in clients’ lives.

We operate programs in a world where sophisticated research into cause and effect is rare and likely to remain so. Logic, experience and some evidence indicates that programs providing the “right” answer to each of the three Truelift questions are likely to show positive impacts on people living in poverty, if and when sophisticated impact research is done.

It is not too difficult for managers, donors, investors, regulators and business leaders to ask these three questions and know when they get good answers. We can know a pro-poor program when we see one — and act to support it.

Truelift_RGBChris Dunford and Carmen Velasco are co-chairs of the Truelift Steering Committee.


Read the full article on Next Billion.

Learn more about Truelift.

WSBI’s journey in making small-scale savings work

WSBI_Mobile Popote product Tanzania_605

Mobile banking service, Popote, in Tanzania, allows savings banks clients to access their account information anywhere. Photo courtesy of WSBI

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


>>Authored by Ian Radcliffe, Director, WSBI-ESBG, Belgium

WSBI has long been a supporter of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and its goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. As an organisation that represents the interests of approximately 6,000 savings and retail banking institutions across 80 countries, advancing financial access and financial usage for everyone is core to our members’ missions.

In fact, it is part of a heritage that can be traced back to our members’ roots that in some cases go back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries in promoting self-help among poor communities. And, since it has nowadays become broadly accepted that financial inclusion brings material economic and societal benefits including lifting people out of poverty, the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s mission is entirely congruent with WSBI and its members’ values.

Our Commitment to the Microcredit Summit Campaign was announced during the 2013 Microcredit Summit in the Philippines and renewed again at last year’s Summit in Mexico. Our commitment focuses on two elements:

  1. Identifying successful inclusive finance strategies for youth markets.
  2. Holding events with our partners and member banks to share knowledge about pricing research and the implications on offering savings products for the poor.

Both Commitments have been pursued under the auspices of WSBI’s major financial inclusion program that started in 2008 and that will come to an end later this year. The program’s aim was to significantly increase the number of savings accounts among the poor, working with savings and retail banks primarily in 10 countries [1]. We were developing new business models and distribution channels and, in many cases, taking advantage of mobile technology.

At the end of this particular journey, we are delighted that six of the banks that sustained projects throughout the life of the program doubled savings accounts, and their growth continues. They have developed business models based on lower-income populations and in so doing, these six banks have undergone significant internal cultural shifts, leading to strengthened identities by clarifying their market positioning. One bank even managed to turn a 75 percent dormant customer base into a 75 percent active one with almost all improvement coming from modest-turnover, low-balance savings accounts.

WSBI_agent with mobile money El Salvador_285

Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world
September 23, 2015
Four Seasons Hotel | Washington, D.C.
8:15 AM to 2 PM
Learn more

The banks’ projects were inevitably supported by a great deal of research and analysis performed by WSBI (including the youth research referred to in our Campaign Commitment), which is available on our website. And, apart from project implementation, the core goals of the program included articulating and disseminating lessons learned to a variety of stakeholders, which is where the Campaign Commitment of holding events with partners and member banks comes in.

On September 23rd, WSBI will run its final major event under this program: a workshop in Washington, D.C., entitled Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world.” We will showcase the successes and challenges faced by the banks that participated with us in our journey. Panel sessions and debates will address how banks and their projects have evolved to adapt to changing environments and competitive pressures. We will explore how strategies, institutional cultures, and practices have adapted as a consequence of program lessons. We will also examine what remains to be done and how the banks and others see the way forward.

The accumulated learning on display at “Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world” will be of clear interest to savings and retail banks, policymakers, and other practitioners involved in the financial inclusion world. The program and registration may be found here; participation is free and we really encourage anyone interested to join us at this workshop.

As we all work together in progressing our journey towards full financial inclusion, WSBI remains committed to continuing its work in this field, as witnessed by its commitment to the Universal Financial Access 2020 goal announced at the World Bank Group’s 2015 Spring Meetings. We are actively forging new partnerships aimed at addressing critical legal and regulatory reforms needed to facilitate WSBI members’ activities in improving financial access. We will continue to support the development of financial infrastructures that are tailored to individual environments. We will draw on the wealth of experience generated by our savings program to support savings and retail banks by way of advisory services aimed at overcoming technical or capacity shortcomings and promoting cultural or behavioral change. And finally, more than ever these days, we will support banks in adapting to the digitized world in which we all now exist to stimulate innovation so as to reach out to new customers, in particular those who currently have little or no access to financial services.

Footnote

[1] Mainly Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. Initiatives have also been pursued during 2015 in Ghana and Sri Lanka.


Related reading

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

Lea en español *** Lisez en français


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: