Browse by Theme: Financial Inclusion

The number of women in the world who still lack access to formal financial services stands at 1 billion. While this figure is going down, the discrimination that women face compared to men, in terms of their access to and control over loans, savings and bank account services, continue to hold women back. If we are to see this 1 billion figure drop down to zero, then private sector organisations, governments and civil society organisations must work together to tackle the barriers slowing up progress, and invest in solutions to target women’s equal inclusion in the formal financial arena.

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Demand for financial services from low-income groups is at an all-time high. Some of that demand is by informal savings and loans groups – including CARE’s 5 million Village Savings and Loan Association members – who want access to quality group bank accounts and mobile-based solutions. East Africa is leading the world in setting up informal savings groups and linking them to formal financial services. The recent East Africa Linkage Summit provided exactly the kinds of insights that other regions can learn from to scale up financial inclusion in 2017.

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Women are very important stakeholders for the whole cocoa industry – not just as customers and consumers, but also because of their roles as cocoa producers. Although cocoa is seen as a “male crop” in most of the producing countries, women have a key role in activities that are critical for the volume and quality of the production. Nevertheless, the “invisibility” of women has serious consequences for their access to technical training and productive resources in general, which is unjust and also represents a huge inefficiency in business terms.

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We often talk about providing people with skills, knowledge and tools so they can improve their lives – but sometimes the impact is hard to quantify. So how does the fact that more than 90% of women’s businesses grew over the course of the Skilling for Change programme sound?

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I recently visited Ghana with a team of Mondelēz International Ambassadors to understand the Cocoa Life value chain from seeds to farming to trading and processing. It was great to see an innovative, inclusive business model in action, driving sustainability for the world’s largest snacking company AND improving the livelihoods of poor cocoa farmers. During the visit I saw for myself how a vibrant value chain is stronger than the sum of its partners; and why it’s important for businesses to address gender inequality and financial exclusion. I also learnt a lot about chocolate!

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Thursday 22nd September at the United Nations General Assembly was a tremendous moment for the global women’s economic empowerment agenda. Not only did Ban Ki Moon become the first Secretary General to declare himself a feminist (for which he received a rousing standing ovation), it was also the launch of the first report by the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

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Unless women have more empowerment, autonomy, and access to resources, we are not going to achieve change. Those are the words of Luis Guillermo Solís, President of Costa Rica and women’s economic empowerment advocate, speaking at an event on financial inclusion co-hosted by CARE and Women’s World Banking at the UN (21 September 2016). Our event was followed by the release of the report of the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment – so what actually needs to happen for a radical step change in accelerating women’s economic empowerment?

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