On March 8, 2022, United Nations recognizes International Women’s Day to promote the importance of progressive gender equality, building support for women’s rights to amplifying and celebrating the achievements of women around the world. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias, a campaign dedicated to advocating for a gender-equal world that is free of bias and discrimination against women.
FINCA Canada champions gender equality by helping women discover meaningful work, establish successful and lasting businesses, and achieve financial independence in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). FINCA Canada, in partnership with the government of Canada, provides female business leaders and communities with resources that equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to build, secure and sustain healthy financial futures.
Last September, we wrapped up our fourth year of the Financial Inclusion Project. Focused on helping low-income women in Haiti and the DRC achieve financial security and stability, the project identified financial barriers and implemented innovative solutions to cater to and streamline the financial needs and demands of both men and women, as well as help them increase their income and savings, which were particularly threatened by the pandemic.
This year, FINCA Canada is partnering with Centennial College to launch a new campaign called ‘Why Women Wednesday.’ This includes an extension to the #EmpowHER podcast series, highlighting how women in Haiti and the DRC who are disproportionately experiencing extreme poverty due to financial, systemic and cultural biases, worsened by the ongoing pandemic.
Continuing the commitment to financial wellness through empowerment
In 2021, we reached 438,000 clients who continue to make progress towards economic equality within their communities, 40,000 of which are new to the FINCA network and are now discovering financial independence.
Education is key to achieving and sustaining equality. Over the past year, more than 216,000 clients took steps to improve their financial literacy through our financial training programs. FINCA Haiti has trained a cumulative total of 76,290 Village Bank clients in financial literacy, 92 percent of which being women. Additionally, FINCA DRC has trained a total of 140,482 clients, of which 51 percent are women. In Haiti, an additional 192 non-client women entrepreneurs took part in training and 34,391 community members in the DRC expanded their financial literacy and financial technologies.
Last year, women continued to prove to be incredibly resilient, showing better loan repayment rates than men, even in times of economic difficulties.
Building stronger and more sustainable financial futures
The pandemic caused economic disruption that disproportionately affected women who work in sectors most impacted by COVID-19. As a result, entrepreneurs had to pivot their business models in order to ensure business continuity. To enable sustained business success through the pandemic, FINCA DRC launched Juste Pour Elle (Just for Her), a new loan product targeting women-owned businesses in the DRC. Juste Pour Elle has preferential conditions for women, such as a lower interest rate and the option for a grace period before loan reimbursement starts.
Since its launch one year ago today, in commemoration of International Women’s Day, over USD 6.6 million has been disbursed to help over 1,0000 women grow and expand their businesses. This has helped them weather the storm of economic challenges influenced by the pandemic and come out to the other side stronger than ever.
Savings and insurance have also proved critical in strengthening the financial health and resilience of entrepreneurs during times of financial uncertainty. Women in the DRC continued to emerge as more efficient savers than men with an average savings balance of $177 compared to the $130 average savings balance of men.
Tapping into technology to expand financial freedom
Helping women in Haiti and the DRC discover the benefits of online banking will be an important step in helping them experience full financial freedom and longevity. The various social and political challenges prevented many women from accessing the in-person banking services they prefer, reinforcing the importance of accessibility. Expanding the availability and improving client comfort and user experience of these technologies will help safeguard women’s financial independence, by providing banking services whenever, wherever and whatever the circumstances.
Click here to learn more about FINCA Canada’s work in social justice reform across the DRC and Haiti as they lay empowering stepping stone for women’s financial independence.