Self-sovereign financial empowerment and economic independence play a fundamental role in ensuring long-lasting impacts of equality and human rights in developing nations. In some nations, establishing national industries, large business communities and supply networks is the best way to cultivate resiliency, equality, and empowerment. In other nations, giving individuals more control over their own finances and decision-making, giving them the opportunity to work from the ground up, has lasting impacts. At the same time, many countries experience a combination of the two, which leads to the greatest reduction in poverty and increases in overall access and equality. Building financial inclusion into the process of developing equality is a key component of FINCA Canada’s mission. In partnership with the Government of Canada, FINCA Canada works to reduce poverty in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), putting financial empowerment at the core of solving inequality. FINCA Canada works to build a human-rights-based economy by providing underserved individuals, who have been historically side-lined in financial decision-making, increased access to financial services.
At FINCA, women’s empowerment is at the core of our mission. Everything that we do, from our microfinance offerings to our social enterprise partners, focuses on empowering women. That is why we’ve put together a list of quotes on women’s empowerment from some of the most inspirational women of the last century. We hope that their words empower you the same way they do our mission. The below quotes come from politicians, writers and activists, bringing to life the difficulties and benefits of empowering women. FINCA has long found women to be the most reliable clients. They are the most willing to spend their hard-earned income on bettering the lives of their children and families, instead of just themselves. We hope that these quotes and their authors’ amazing journeys inspire you to join the global movement to empower women.
Quotes on Empowering Women
Malala Yousafzai: Pakistani Activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate
No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.Malala Yousafzai became a champion for female rights when the Taliban took control of her hometown in Pakistan and banned girls from going to school. She spoke out against the Taliban and was shot in the head on her way home from school. Her story garnered international attention and outrage. After Malala recovered, she started the Malala Fund to advocate for the right of every girl to learn and lead. Malala’s story brought to light the realities that millions of girls around the world face every day. And her work has helped millions more through her mission for gender equality.
Michelle Obama: Former First Lady of the United States, Lawyer, and Author
The difference between a broken community and a thriving one is the presence of women who are valued.Michelle Obama made this statement on empowering women at the State Department Women of Courage Awards in 2009. As the first African American First Lady in the US, Michelle faced many obstacles and overcame many challenges in her fight for gender equality. To help other women and girls overcome the challenges they face, she made female empowerment her mission. In 2018, she launched the Girls Opportunity Alliance, which empowers girls around the world through education.
Patsy Mink: First Woman of Color Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives
We have to build things that we want to see accomplished, in life and in our country, based on our own personal experiences to make sure that others do not have to suffer the same discrimination.As a Japanese American woman growing up in Hawaii during WWII, Patsy Mink faced discrimination throughout her life. She did not, however, let that adversity hold her back and fought for what she believed in. She became the first Japanese American woman to practice law in Hawaii and the first Asian American woman elected to congress. Patsy fought for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, and bilingual education. She also she was one of the authors and sponsors of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender. Throughout her life and career, she made the US a more equitable place for women and minorities and inspired millions through her courage and determination.
Quotes on Female Empowerment at FINCADrawing inspiration from Malala, Michelle, Patsy and many other quotes on women’s empowerment, FINCA always keeps empowering women at the center of our mission. We understand that when women have access to financial services and life-enhancing goods, the benefits not only flow to the women who receive them but also to their families and communities. As FINCA Co-Founder John Hatch said,
It has been proven time after time that increasing the incomes of poor mothers results in an almost immediate improvement in their children’s diet, and an increased likelihood that they can send their children to school. And when a child is educated, he or she has better opportunities to live outside of poverty.Empowering women play a critical role in alleviating poverty. In the poorest households, women are often the family’s primary source of income. Yet women consistently lag behind men in access to financial services and other resources like education, land ownership, healthcare, etc. By enabling women to receive access to the same resources as men, women become empowered to take control of their own lives. They can invest in themselves, start businesses, employ others, and in doing so, lift up their entire communities.
FINCA Leading By ExampleFollowing our long tradition of believing in women as strong business leaders, FINCA also leads by example. In 2016, Andrée Simon became President and CEO of FINCA’s global microfinance operations. And FINCA constantly seeks to identify leadership opportunities for women in countries where women aren’t traditionally empowered, such as Pakistan, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are working to change traditional gender norms both within and outside of our organization. In Andrée’s words:
We have to attack cultural norms at the roots. The real impact every single person has in their hands is teaching children and all people around us on why gender equality is really important.
Currently, global statistics show that one-third of the world’s population is financially illiterate. Of these individuals, women in impoverished countries make up a disproportionate rate of the financially illiterate compared to men. As financial illiteracy is directly correlated to income levels, it is no surprise that women are also disproportionally living in poverty. The pandemic is further widening this gender poverty gap and earlier this year, FINCA Canada projected 120,000 of its women-owned small and micro-business clients will be financially devastated by the effects of COVID-19. As the impact of the pandemic continues to fluctuate our global economy, the need for financial literacy of women in impoverished nations is intensifying and is critical in the effort to stop the reversal of decades of progress toward international poverty reduction.
Effective Financial Literacy Helps Reduce Global PovertyThis month, the world celebrates Financial Literacy Month to acknowledge and advocate for the resources necessary in developing the skills, capacity and behaviours that lead to financial resilience. More specifically, FINCA Canada, in partnership with the Government of Canada, is focused on supporting the financial inclusion of women in Haiti and the DRC. This includes everything from micro-loans and business advice to financial literacy training and tools to improve financial wellbeing. FINCA Canada recognizes the vitality of bringing financial literacy to women in these parts of the world, helping them increase their standards of living and education levels while enhancing economic prosperity. Improved advocacy for increased financial literacy practices is key to relieving the economic strain in many impoverished countries as it helps remove a critical barrier to financial inclusion. This also paves the way for improved risk management, increased customer usage of financial services and empowers both men and women to gain better control of their savings. Over the past year, it has become clear that financial literacy education is a critical tool in the age of COVID-19 and ever-looming natural disasters.
Closing the Gender Gap Through Enhanced Financial InclusionDeeply rooted social norms coupled with gender biases have fueled the financial hardships women face in impoverished countries today. This had made it difficult for them to achieve financial independence which is crucial to their personal and entrepreneurial success. To address this inequity, in 2017 FINCA Canada partnered with the Government of Canada on the Financial Inclusion Project, a five-year partnership designed to promote economic prosperity for low-income women and men in Haiti and the DRC. At the conclusion of the fourth year of the project, FINCA Haiti has cumulatively provided financial literacy training for a total of 76,290 Village Banking (VB) clients, 92 percent of whom were women. In addition, FINCA DRC has provided financial literacy training to a total of 140,482 clients, more than half of whom are women, helping 216,072 clients in both regions build financial resilience. By providing women entrepreneurs with equal opportunities, knowledge, and financial portfolios, FINCA Canada has significantly contributed to the improved financial empowerment among women in Haiti and the DRC. Through a global lens, 4.5 million women in developing countries have partnered with the Global FINCA network, indulging in the appropriate educational measures needed to better navigate the evolving financial landscape and lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Equal access to financial literacy and advancement is a human right, and at FINCA Canada, we believe we can break down the vicious cycle of inter-generational poverty by promoting economic education and financial inclusion for all. Click here to learn more about FINCA Canada’s work with improving financial literacy standards in developing countries and show your support for increasing financial education in impoverished communities. Stay in touch with us over Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
Crisis in Haiti, unfortunately, is nothing new. Tragedies both natural and man-made have plagued the country through much of recent history. The most recent tragedy occurred on August 14 when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s southern peninsula. In the town of Les Cayes, about 25 miles from the epicentre, cinderblock walls buckled and cement floors crashed down upon one another. FINCA client Norvelie Fontaine will never forget the day.
Norvelie’s Story“It took me a second to realize something was odd,” remembers Norvelie. “It felt like the house was dancing with me so I grabbed my two children and ran outside. But even in the streets, I did not feel safe. I was so scared my children would get hurt. So I held them in my arms. That’s when it happened again.” A second tremor pushed Norvelie upwards, and she distinctively heard her bone crack. “Still, I was holding my babies. Then the earth opened, and I got trapped with my kids. Luckily we were saved by my neighbours who found us and pulled us out” whispers the 33-year-old mother. On Norvelie’s trip to the hospital, she recalls seeing chaos on the streets with motorcycles and cars running into each other.
A propane refill station exploded… I really thought I was going to die that day.Norvelie and her children survived. But the earthquake killed at least 2,200 people, injured more than 12,000, and put an estimated 650,000 people in dire need of assistance. It was truly a day of crisis in Haiti.
Crisis in HaitiThe earthquake is only one in a string of crises buffeting Haiti. As everywhere else in the world, COVID-19 is causing tremendous suffering. Haiti has not had many confirmed COVID cases, but the pandemic worsened an already weak economy. According to the World Bank, sixty percent of Haitians now live on less than $2 per day. Many Haitians, however, view the pandemic as a minor concern. Their primary concern is an escalation in violence since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021. The assassination remains unsolved, and powerful gangs have stepped into the power void created by the President’s death. Kidnappings of rich and poor are rampant making people afraid to send their kids to school or to leave their homes for work. And gangs are setting up roadblocks to extort payment from travellers and truck drivers, making food and other goods scarce and expensive. The earthquake only added to this misery.
How FINCA is Responding to the Crisis in HaitiIn the face of the earthquake, FINCA responded immediately. We quickly ascertained that while the FINCA office in Les Cayes was damaged our staff was unharmed. We sent local staff cash assistance to tide them over until emergency relief arrived, distributed what canned food items and hygiene supplies we had on hand, and began the massive task of getting in touch with our 5,000+ clients in the region. Through in-person visits and phone calls, we learned that Norvelie’s story was far from unique. Some clients had died or lost family members, hundreds had been injured, and more than 800 had their business and/or home destroyed by the earthquake. Concentrating our efforts on helping these most affected families, FINCA Canada launched an emergency appeal just days after the earthquake hit. The response has been overwhelming. To date, FINCA has raised more than $450,000 internationally. FINCA Haiti is using the donations to forgive loans made to women like Norvelie who lost so much. The Emergency Response Fund also will ensure that when the doctor takes off Norvelie’s cast and authorizes her to return to work that she can receive a new loan to restart her business. Meanwhile, to combat the violence that is plaguing Haiti, FINCA is further ramping up its mobile banking and agent banking. By allowing people to do transactions from the relative safety of their homes or businesses, we’re able to keep our clients and our staff safer.
Norvelie’s Vision for the FutureNorvelie’s life is still very difficult, but with her immediate needs met, Norvelie already is thinking of that future. As she told us recently, “I can start over. I’m not afraid of that.” FINCA’s clients have proved their resilience over and over again. And with support from FINCA and the donors who make our work possible, Norvelie certainly will have the chance that she needs.
There’s no doubt the global economic effects of the pandemic have had a detrimental impact on poverty reduction efforts across the world. In addition to COVID-19 claiming the lives of so many worldwide, increased lockdowns, social distancing measures and disruptions of supply chains have sparked major economic loss. This has pushed vulnerable populations, particularly women, further below the poverty line. According to the World Data Lab, the world has lost five years in its attempt to end extreme poverty, reporting a rise of 50 million people experiencing extreme poverty in 2020. However, the distribution of those who have fallen into poverty is not equally dispersed throughout the world and is much more prominent in countries where governments are ill-equipped to provide social protection measures.
Worrying Poverty Reduction Levels GloballyAlthough the pandemic drastically affected both developed and developing nations, causing various economic challenges, including labour cuts, investment loss, and decline in the tourism levels, developed nations reacted and increased their mitigative efforts through fiscal and monetary policies, reaching 28 percent of their GDP. In contrast, many developing nations had little to spend in response to the pandemic, with most only spending approximately 7 percent of their GDP in curbing negative impacts. Prior to COVID-19, there were only 103 social protection measures implemented in 45 countries. Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of social protection programs rose to 1414 across 215 countries. Although these financial aids were designed to support those struggling, most fragile countries didn’t – and still don’t – have the resources to keep programs afloat. Geographically, poverty is very concentrated in Africa and success in ending poverty globally will largely depend on African fragile states. It is estimated that by 2030, two of the most fragile and conflict states, Nigeria and the DRC, will experience the greatest increase in the number of people living in extreme poverty if social supports are not provided to mitigate these risks.
The Growing Need for Support in Times of CrisisIn honour of Poverty Eradication Day on October 17th FINCA Canada, in partnership with the Government of Canada, is committed to being a catalyst for economic inclusion and poverty reduction amongst vulnerable communities. This includes the offering of financial services, promoting financial literacy and increasing access points for the poor to enable long-term economic growth for those working to break free from poverty and counter the negative impact of the pandemic. FINCA Canada understands the sizeable impact this pandemic has had and will continue to have on fragile communities. In partnership with the Government of Canada, FINCA Canada works to raise awareness around the importance of providing access to financial services for communities in both Haiti and the DRC. By offering a variety of financial aid, such as their global microfinance program and financial inclusion project, FINCA hopes to provide struggling individuals and communities with an opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty and better achieve financial freedom. Click here to learn more about FINCA Canada’s work with poverty reduction and show your support for increasing financial access in impoverished communities. Stay in touch with us over Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. CLICK TO GIVE NOW!
Inequity in vaccine access is a reality, just take a look at the graphs below. Compared to the countries in the global north where FINCA has offices—the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, vaccination rates in developing countries are incredibly low. As of mid-September, across the 40+ countries where FINCA and its partners provide life-changing services, only 5.7 percent of people are fully vaccinated, and another 3.7 percent of people are partially vaccinated. There are also significant regional discrepancies in the data.
Vaccine Inequity in Latin America and AsiaNearly 29 percent of people are fully vaccinated in the five Latin American nations where FINCA has a presence. A further 9 percent had only received a portion of their vaccine. In Asia, 11 percent of people are fully vaccinated, while the remaining 8 percent are partially vaccinated. Then there’s Africa’s Sub-Saharan region, as well as Haiti.
Africa and Haiti Have the Highest Rates of Vaccine InequityThe 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where FINCA works have a population of more than 900 million. Fewer than 12 million of them have been fully vaccinated, with another 12 million having been partially vaccinated. This equates to 1.27 percent of the population receiving full vaccination and 1.35 percent receiving partial vaccination. And those abysmal rates are better than Haiti. Haiti was the world’s last country to begin vaccinations. Only about 40,000 persons out of a population of 11.5 million have received even a single dosage of vaccination.
With Your Help, FINCA is Combating InequityMany developing countries will have to wait a long time to gain the benefits of a partially vaccinated, let alone completely vaccinated, population. FINCA is not directly engaged in the fight against vaccine inequity. We are, on the other hand, deeply active in the fight against poverty and in assisting the world’s underprivileged in overcoming this pandemic. Your continued support for the women and men FINCA serves is crucial now more than ever as they continue their long fight against COVID-19. Data accessed from Our World in Data on September 16, 2021.
With a death toll rising over 2,200 people and over 12,000 plus injured, the earthquake that struck the southern region of Haiti on Saturday, August 14, 2021, has caused incalculable damage to 130,000 homes. Almost two weeks after the devastating earthquake, Haitians are still searching for food, water and shelter anywhere they can. The passage of Tropical Depression Grace worsened conditions through heavy rains in surrounding areas still reeling from the earthquake. The delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance has grown difficult, causing heightened distress as hundreds of civilians remain missing from their families. Even before the impact of the earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti has consistently faced challenges to its economic and social development, be it issues of political instability, financial decline, or natural disasters. The unfortunate events over the last year are ultimately leading back to the extreme poverty that locals have been struggling with for years.
FINCA’s Emergency Response FundIn response to the devastating impacts of the earthquake, FINCA Canada has set up an Emergency Response Fund, which will go directly towards the critical relief and recovery efforts for residents, FINCA staff, clients and their families during this difficult time. Local FINCA staff are currently conducting field visits to ensure their clients’ wellbeing and to assess damages they incurred. As of now, FINCA has responded to the crisis in Haiti by:
- Sending cash transfers via MonCash to help staff members and their families as many have lost family members and their homes
- Distributing of canned food items, hygiene supplies and tents to help staff members and their families
- Conducting field assessments by the Chief Commercial Officer to learn more about the condition of Southern Haiti and its impacts on the people FINCA serves
- Amplified call centre support to gather information about client’s safety
Findings from FINCA’s Financial Inclusion Project show the Value of Ongoing SupportFINCA Canada’s Emergency Response Fund and support of relief efforts are part of its larger ongoing commitment to help clients in Haiti and the DRC reach financial independence through the Financial Inclusion Project. In partnership with Global Affairs Canada, the Financial Inclusion Project aims to promote economic wellbeing for low-income women and men in Haiti. Through the Financial Inclusion Project, FINCA Canada has:
- Helped almost 100,000 people register for FINCA’s client services
- Assisted over 2,000 clients with agriculture loans and provided technical assistance for business development, natural resource management and climate change adaptation
- Given loans to micro-enterprises along with financial literacy programs aimed at helping empower women in the region
- Improved access to mobile savings services for over 120,000 low-income individuals
Strengthening women’s financial health, resilience, and economic empowerment is critical to improving their ability to weather future shocks. As a precursor to making any headway on these issues, FINCA understands that it is imperative that women’s voices are heard and their unique circumstances understood. So, in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), FINCA researchers are gathering data from thousands of clients to understand the barriers to women’s financial inclusion. The customer journey starts with knowing what’s available on the market. Women in the DRC are more likely than men to struggle with low levels of awareness. FINCA’s survey found that 22 percent of women compared with 14 percent of men were unable to name more than two products from each category of loans, savings, mobile banking and insurance.
Women’s Product Awareness Influenced by Demographic FactorsIn addition, education strongly influences women’s product knowledge, much more strongly than it does for men. The research found that 57 percent of women with less than secondary education could recall only one or two basic financial products, in contrast to 26 percent of men. In fact, at every educational level, the research found that women were more likely than men to have this problem. Other demographic factors impacting women’s product awareness include location and age. FINCA researchers found that nearly one-third (30 percent) of rural women had limited product awareness compared with 22 percent of women in urban areas. At 16 percent and 14 percent respectively, the rural/urban divide was not an important factor for men. The survey also found that across every age group, women were more likely than men to have limited awareness of financial products, with the problem most pronounced among younger and older women.
FINCA’s Product Development is Based on DataAll in all, the study shows a significant gap between women and men in product knowledge and hence the ability to make effective choices. Further research will dive even deeper into the factors affecting women’s access to finance. The findings will inform FINCA’s efforts to develop products and services that meet women’s needs and empower them to be more resilient. The DRC survey was supported by the Government of Canada. Read a summary of the findings here.
On Saturday August 14, 2021, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 rocked the impoverished country of Haiti, killing many and inflicting extensive damage. Some are still unaccounted for. And just days after, Tropical storm Grace swept over Haiti with pouring rains, adding to the despair of thousands who lost loved ones, suffered injuries or found themselves homeless. We have confirmed that although all FINCA staff survived, a few sustained injuries, some lost family members, and many of their homes were damaged. We are also reaching out individually to each of our 5,000+ clients in the affected regions where the earthquake occurred to determine their situations and how we can help. Though it will be some time before we can fully assess the full impact of this disaster, we have launched the FINCA Canada Emergency Response Fund: Crisis in Haiti with the goal of raising $50,000 immediately. These funds will help in the relief and recovery efforts for our FINCA Haiti staff, clients, and their families during this crisis. Every dollar contributed to this Emergency Response Fund will be matched with four additional dollars from the Government of Canada. We are determined to do everything possible to support the Haitian people through this newest, terrible crisis. The people of Haiti have always met the toughest of challenges—from previous earthquakes and hurricanes to the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrests and political violence, including this summer’s presidential assassination—with courage and determination. We are hopeful that they will also persevere through this current crisis. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook to keep abreast of our progress and our ongoing efforts that support the people of Haiti. Thank you for your support.
This blog is courtesy of Etant Dupain, Director and Executive Producer of Madan Sara My documentary, “Madan Sara: The Power of Haitian Women”, was inspired by a moving conversation I had with my mother where she explained the sacrifices she made to provide a better life than she had for me and my siblings. Throughout my childhood, my mother, Rose Marie, traveled across Haiti as a Madan Sara in the face of serious challenges and risks such as rape and theft. ‘Madan Sara’ are women who work diligently to buy, distribute, and sell food and other essentials in street markets throughout Haiti. My mother’s desire stretched beyond providing an education for her children to include assisting the future generation of Haitians. This film is a true depiction of her hard work and sacrifice. As a journalist covering politics and economic development in Haiti, I saw firsthand how local and foreign law makers overlooked one of the most crucial elements of the Haitian society. Despite facing intense hardship and social stigma, the efforts of the Madan Sara provided education, shelter, and health care access for their families. Seeped in the culture of lakou, Madan Sara may be the most successful network of local food distribution (moving from farms to markets) that has ever existed in Haiti. This network, largely led by women, is a centuries-old practice that has become a cultural centerpiece in Haitian households. Telling the Madan Sara story means telling my story, and the stories of tens of thousands of other Haitians throughout the country and around the world. Marie Maguine Loussaint of FINCA Haiti is one such person, whose life is attached to the Madan Sara legacy.