More than one billion people in some of the world’s poorest countries make only $2.50 per day, or less. Most often these people are surviving with limited resources and little to no support from traditional banks, depending on their geographic location. They are the forgotten people who have been disproportionately excluded from accessing financial tools needed to improve their lives. This is particularly true for women who continue to be largely excluded from the economy. For more than 30 years, microfinance loans have benefitted millions of people by helping to build businesses, increase incomes and improve the overall quality of lives around the world. FINCA Canada understands how a small impact can create large, generational changes across communities for years to come and embraces microfinancing as an effective way to overcome adversity. To support people in impoverished countries, FINCA Canada — in partnership with the Government of Canada — values and executes financial inclusion to help raise the standard of living in Haiti and the DRC.
FINCA Canada’s deputy Director, Linda Bryson, talks with Bruce Sellery from Moolala about the OppHERtunity Campaign, built to support women in developing nations and better their financial wellbeing to pull themselves out of extreme poverty. Listen to the podcast » https://moolala.ca/2021/03/30/full-episode-ipo-101-everything-you-need-to-know-before-you-buy/
To celebrate International Women’s Day, FINCA pulled a panel of experts together to talk about how investing in women yields dividends. During the 50-minute virtual event, more than sixty FINCA supporters from across the United States and Canada had a chance to hear from and ask questions to our panelists. At the start of the event, Drew Boshell, the moderator of the panel, announced FINCA Canada’s new campaign to support 120,000 women entrepreneurs in the DR Congo and Haiti from sliding back into poverty. FINCA Canada’s goal is to raise $1.2 million. And for every dollar that FINCA Canada raises, the Government of Canada will provide $4 in matching support. Drew went on to bring up the topic that was on everyone’s mind, the impact of Covid-19 on women’s empowerment. Drew noted that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on women. He quoted a new report from UN Women and the UNDP that by the end of this year 47 million additional women will be living in extreme poverty, less than $1.90 per day. Mirela Pekmezi, who works for FINCA in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and previously worked for FINCA in Haiti, said that she wasn’t surprised at all by these findings. Women, she noted, have the smallest businesses and the smallest income. “They live on a day to day basis.” When the economy slumped at the start of the pandemic, most of them had nowhere to turn. Women are more likely to lose employment. They have to look after the kids. Making it all the more important that FINCA was investing in women. One of Mirela’s co-panelist, Colleen Zakrewsky, took the argument even further. Colleen, who leads development and communications at FINCA International, reminded everyone that “women have faced more prejudice in almost every facet of life” for pretty much all of recorded history. “We’re making progress,” Colleen noted, “but we haven’t yet realized full equality.” She went to quote a series of statistics from FINCA’s in-house research on the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women:
- 61% of female clients cut non-essential expenditures (which in the countries in which FINCA works are things like soap and sugar) compared to 52% of men,
- 32% of women cut a meal compared to 22% of men, and
- 9% of female clients reported going hungry compared to just 3% of male clients.
FINCA Canada’s #empowHER Podcast Series comes to an end with its third episode featuring Linda Bryson, Deputy Director of FINCA Canada and Christine Dikongué, Cameroonian entrepreneur and co-founder and VP of the first and largest virtual Hackathon in Africa: AfricaHacks. Navigating entrepreneurship is a great but challenging experience and the added layer of gender only complicates it. In this episode, listen to our amazing guests talk more about financial literacy, the various challenges faced by women – especially when it comes to starting up their own business – and how COVID-19 has impacted the entrepreneurial journey.
We are back with the second episode of the #empowHER podcast series. This episode features Drew Boshell, Executive Director at FINCA Canada and Nora Jeanne Joseph, a Haitian entrepreneur; founder of her own social enterprise Radikal. Empowering women in developing countries like Haiti has been one of FINCA Canada’s main goals and with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more effort is being put into achieving this goal. Listen to our amazing guests as they tell us about the importance and benefits of women empowerment and gender equity, especially now in times of the pandemic. Lookout for our upcoming episode featuring:
- Christine Dikongué – technology project consultant, coordinator of the first and largest virtual Hackathon in Africa: AfricaHacks.
We are excited to present to you the very first episode of FINCA Canada’s #empowHER podcast series featuring Drew Boshell, Executive Director of FINCA Canada and Linda Bryson, Deputy Director of FINCA Canada. FINCA Canada is a not for profit organization with a mission to alleviate poverty through lasting solutions such as microcredit and financial literacy that help people – women in particular – build assets, create jobs, and raise their standard of living. Listen as Drew and Linda give us more information about FINCA Canada’s mission, goals, and what they are looking forward to in the upcoming episodes. They also discuss their campaign to stop 120,000 women in Haiti and DR Congo from sliding into poverty due to the impacts of COVID-19. Lookout for our upcoming episodes featuring:
- Nora Jeanne Joseph – founder of Radikal, a social enterprise that sources organic beauty, wellness and environmental products from various women cooperatives in Haiti
- Christine Dikongué – technology project consultant, coordinator of the first and largest virtual Hackathon in Africa: AfricaHacks.
It has become increasingly clear that men and women make financial decisions differently, having conflicting needs, preferences and behaviours, but exhibit a shared mission to achieve both business and personal financial goals. Due to deep rooted social-cultural norms and associated gender biases, women are disproportionately financially excluded. This inequity has led to a gender poverty gap which is exacerbated in impoverished countries, as large portions of their female populations lack education opportunities and are challenged by financial illiteracy and limited financial independence. To eliminate these obstacles and create opportunities for financial inclusion, for both men and women, FINCA Canada—in partnership with the Government of Canada —is implementing a Financial Inclusion Project in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to increase economic prosperity for all with a focus on low-income women.
Why conduct a Gender Assessment ReportTo ensure accuracy in the execution of this project, FINCA Canada conducted a Gender Assessment Report (GAR), which aims to mainstream gender centric thinking into FINCA Haiti and DRC’s processes and operations. With a mission to ensure added educational value for male and female stakeholders, both internal and external, this report acts as a key component in improving staff training and external product offerings, guaranteeing it accurately caters to the needs of both men and women in Haiti and the DRC. The GAR improves FINCA Canada’s ability to analyze their practices through a gendered lens, to ensure that low-income women can leverage their products and services as efficiently as men, fostering equal financial gain for all. To encourage financial involvement for females in both Haiti and the DRC, FINCA is incorporating a systematic integration of gender considerations in all phases of research. This new feature allows staff to analyze and address the business activities, financial needs, and challenges in accessing financial services for their female client base, which are commonly different in comparison to men. In response to the accelerated rate of digital transformation, FINCA Canada is making concerted efforts to ensure that women have fair and equal access to new technologies that are adopted to better their customers experience. This can be achieved by rethinking customer engagement through a gendered scope, which is commonly done through relationship-based customer service models. FINCA Canada has also made a conscious effort to tailor messaging through its marketing networks to better attract female audiences. FINCA Canada is providing gender sensitive monitoring to help navigate the process of digital transformation while closely assessing the feedback in relation to women. This is based on the anticipated increase of accessibility and usage of financial services by women.
Varying gender considerations and their impactAccording to a study conducted by Women’s World Banking, research suggests that in most cases, products designed with a woman’s needs in mind are better received by both male and female audiences. This is because women are believed to have high standards and products that typically work for women tend to also work well for men. This new outlook has formed and is supported by many successes identified in FINCA Haiti and FINCA DRC. For Haiti, an innovative agricultural product adapted to forego collateral requirements as women typically do not have assets for loans, helping to eliminate the structural complexity and limitations around these financial products. With this small pivot came a sea change: 75 percent of clients using this product identify as women, opening new avenues for Haitian women and their communities to make their own financial decisions. For the DRC, the clear value-add of financial literacy programs coupled with digital channels and banking agents become all the more apparent during the pandemic. Since the beginning of FINCA Canada’s Financial Inclusion Project, over 13,000 low-income women have been trained in financial literacy. Despite pandemic-related lockdowns, FINCA Canada continued to meaningfully connect with clients through digital messages and online training. In addition, the number of mobile savings clients increased significantly from 78,108 to 126,485 in 2020, and mobile transactions saw a similarly steep increase. The key findings from the GAR report, combined with efforts executed under our Financial Inclusion Project, provides insights for FINCA Haiti, FINCA DRC and other countries to better address gender-based considerations through all our daily practices. Our mission is improving FINCA’s client experience through operations that advance FINCA’s Financial Inclusion Project as well as FINCA’s Diversity and Inclusion work. Learn more at www.FINCACANADA.org about how FINCA Canada is helping 120,000 Congolese and Haitian women restart or pivot their micro-businesses and avoiding slipping back into extreme poverty through our OppHERtunity Campaign. Stay in touch with us over Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
A little over a decade after the day was first declared, we celebrate the United Nations World Day of Social Justice every year on February 20th. The 2021 theme of “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy” is fitting given the past year’s mass rise of digitization of every sector of our lives, from education to employment. Consequently, the gap between those with access and those without access to digital resources has only grown. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented employment losses in 2020, with 114 million global jobs lost. Moreover, these job losses have been greatest in the low-skilled sectors that are the backbone of many developing countries’ economies. And this mass labor loss only furthers the existing disparities between the world’s developing and developed nations. With that said, FINCA remains more committed than ever to social justice and our goal of financial inclusion and access to life-changing resources for all. Below is an example of how FINCA strives to decrease inequalities worldwide, many of which are growing due to the pandemic.
Addressing the Wage Gap through Women’s Economic EmpowermentAcross the globe, 2020’s rise in unemployment has disproportionately affected women. The ILO estimates that women experienced a 1.1 percent greater employment loss due to the coronavirus pandemic than men. Additionally, a majority of the 1.7 billion unbanked adults of the world are women. This lack of access to opportunities not only keeps women impoverished but also affects their whole family and the wider community, especially during the ever-changing pandemic reality. However, FINCA Canada is working to help women overcome these inequalities, during the pandemic and always. In the DR Congo, Eugénie Kabeya’s seamstress business lost 70 percent of its monthly revenue in direct response to the pandemic. However, per the recommendation of the local FINCA branch (at which Kabeya had been a customer for over a decade), she transitioned her business to making and selling masks locally and online. Soon, Kabeya was able to sell more than 5,000 masks. And she was even able to bring back two seamstresses she’d had to let go due to her decreased revenue. This is how empowering one woman to pursue her entrepreneurial ideas can affect and uplift an entire community. Eugenie’s story exemplifies how empowering women through access to life-changing financial resources enables them to uplift themselves along with their families and whole communities. This is why FINCA Canada has expanded our customized financial services to women, focusing this past year especially on digital technologies. These technologies have included products like “virtual banks” to expand access to financial services without needing to be in-person. People can conduct business and bank remotely—which used to require visiting a branch—so they can still participate in productive economic activities.
The Legacy of World Day of Social Justice in 2021World Day of Social Justice serves as a yearly reminder of the work we still need to do to provide all people—regardless of gender, race, religion or culture—with equal opportunities and resources. In light of the past year, we must include the world’s most underserved and underrepresented communities if we are to achieve global solutions to social injustice. FINCA Canada’s goal of social justice for all can be seen through our commitment to women’s economic empowerment. Most importantly, the products and services we provide to individuals and communities on a daily basis directly impact their ability to build a more equitable future. Now more than ever, FINCA Canada remains devoted to our mission of eradicating poverty. We will continue providing opportunities for economic growth for low-income communities, during these unprecedented times and beyond.
2020 was traumatic for many people as the coronavirus claimed lives, disrupted livelihoods, and derailed the economy. FINCA’s clients, among the most vulnerable in their societies, were some of the worst affected. Women, in particular, bore the brunt of the pandemic. Along with losing jobs and incomes, women also had to endure the burden of unpaid caregiving and domestic work. FINCA’s Emergency Response Fund provided relief to many of the women affected and clients also took the initiative to adapt quickly to the adverse circumstances. Eugénie, a seamstress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lost 70 percent of her monthly revenue in the first month of the pandemic. But she switched quickly to making masks to compensate her business losses. Through word-of-mouth, she received orders from her customers as well as associations and small enterprises. With these quick sales, she was soon able to re-hire two employees. Stories like Eugénie’s demonstrate the resilience and resourcefulness of FINCA’s women clients. But recovering from months of extreme economic and social stress will be an ongoing battle throughout the course of 2021 and perhaps thereafter. FINCA will make sure to continue to focus on raising women up, helping them achieve their personal aspirations over the course of the year.
How FINCA Canada Will Empower Women in 2021FINCA will expand investments in mobile banking, empowering clients to use a simple cellphone to make loan payments and conduct other routine transactions. While beneficial to all clients, research shows that mobile banking is especially transformative for women as they face greater challenges to even make it through the front door of a traditional brick-and-mortar bank. FINCA will also grow its network of banking agents, local merchants equipped with biometric devices that allow nearby clients to carry out transactions just by scanning their fingerprints. As Suwilanji Moomba, one of FINCA’s banking agents in Zambia, says:
Someone is selling vegetables and they’re just uncomfortable going to the bank every day because they feel intimidated. But when it’s local like this, it’s easy for someone to help her. It also helps because agents can speak to the clients in the local languages as well. It’s a wonderful feeling to grow with your customers.Finally, FINCA will build and strengthen partnerships with social enterprises to provide life-enhancing services–education, electricity, health–to its clients. FINCA will work tirelessly to help the people it serves build back better this year.
During a time in which the coronavirus led to trauma and dislocation, fintech—shorthand for financial technologies—provided a light in the darkness to many of the world’s poorest people. And while the communities in which FINCA works likely won’t see mass availability of vaccines until 2022 at the earliest, fintech at least is making their lives a little bit easier.