Browse by Theme: Livelihoods

CARE has teamed up with Equity Bank to launch a credit product for Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) known as Pamoja Tujijenge, or ‘We Build Each Other Together’. The product provides thousands of dollars to savings groups as a loan and is the next step in CARE’s long-term initiative of providing meaningful financial empowerment for East Africa’s under-served rural poor. If successful, the credit product can serve as an important precedent for financial service providers wishing to reach this market at a time when private, public and non-governmental stakeholders are taking notice and action to combat poverty through financial inclusion.

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The signing of the Compromise Peace Agreement in August removed one obstacle on the long road to peace in South Sudan, but the future is far from certain. For the fragile peace to take root, South Sudan and its international backers must show patience and ensure equal weight is given to both peacebuilding and economic development.

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Megan Gaventa writes: As I took part in CARE’s recent roundtable discussion, ‘Invisible Women in Global Value Chains: A Missed Opportunity?’, I couldn’t help but feel that the event was timely. Not just because it was part of CARE’s 70th anniversary celebrations. The excitement surrounding the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals – and their standalone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment – was still fresh in the mind. Recent weeks had also brought the under-representation of women in business, politics and other spheres into the spotlight, as Elle’s photoshopped images of world leaders reminded us how far there is to go.

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Blog by Laurie Lee and Ramil Burden (Vice President, Africa and developing countries, GSK):

In the north eastern corner of Bangladesh lies Sunamganj district. A remote area that is underwater for almost half of the year, it is one of the hardest places in the country to be a mother. In 2012, only 11% of births were assisted by a skilled health worker compared to a third across the country, and the maternal mortality rate was double that of the nation as a whole.

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The private sector is a main actor involved in women’s economic empowerment in rural value chains: large traders, retailers or manufacturers often hold the keys to improving women’s access to extension services, financial services, input provision, market information and technology. They also have the negotiating power to help put gender equality on the agenda of producers’ associations and cooperatives.

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Village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) have been a powerful tool for enabling millions of women to access loans, set up small businesses and improve their quality of life. But as an evaluation of a CARE VSLA programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has shown, VSLAs can also be a platform for addressing the social norms that sustain gender inequality, and can therefore also contribute to the wider and more complex processes of women’s empowerment.

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In recent years there’s been a steady stream of media articles questioning the benefits of microfinance, with some critics even arguing that not only does microfinance not benefit the poor, it actually makes them poorer. How should those of us involved in supporting the access of poor people to financial services respond? Is what we are doing actually helping the poor? Is the criticism of microfinance justified? Here are some personal thoughts.

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