Health shocks are the most prominent idiosyncratic shocks and stresses that low-income households face. Demand for health financing support is often higher than any other financial risk management solution, and demand far exceeds the supply. An improved and expanded choice of health financing options is needed to ensure low-income households have financial instruments to anticipate, respond to, and recover from health events without resulting in increased vulnerability and poverty traps. This will require patient and long-term investments from donors, investors, governments, health service actors and the financial services sector and will require thinking about health financing through an ecosystem lens, where demand generation for and supply of health services and health financing should be designed to intersect.
August 05, 2019 by Lauren Henricks, Executive Vice President, Grameen Foundation
The Bidi Bidi refugee camp, in northwestern Uganda, is the largest refugee settlement in the country, and the second-largest refugee camp in the world, hosting 220,000 refugees who have fled the devastation and humanitarian crisis of the protracted civil war in South Sudan. In contrast to long-established refugee settlements elsewhere in the country, the inhabitants of Bidi Bidi are newcomers: all of them have arrived since the 2016 “July Crisis” in South Sudan.
Because of the long-term stability, favorable policy and social environment, and freedom of movement in Uganda, the majority of refugees in more established camps are either already engaging in small businesses or would like to start one (a recent World Bank study cited that 72 percent of refugees are operating some sort of micro or agri-business.) But at Bidi Bidi, the relationships and arrangements among people that create an active economy have not had time to develop, and economic activity remains low. These refugees arrived with literally just the clothes on their back and the few assets they could carry, and are to a greater extent than most refugees in Uganda, still struggling to establish themselves and supplement the limited support NGOs and the UN can provide.
The Building the Resilience of Vulnerable Communities in Burkina Faso (BRB) project leveraged women’s savings groups as a platform to provide complementary services in nutrition and agricultural education, access to agricultural extension support, linkages to formal agricultural and micro-business financing, and gender dialogues with the aim of improving household resilience. A mixed-methods, longitudinal quasi-experimental research design implemented between 2016 and 2018 found that BRB participants experienced improved food security, dietary diversity, self-perceived resilience and sustained savings accumulation despite an economic downturn experienced in 2017 due to a drought and subsequent poor harvests. Women reported increases in the implementation of new income-generating activities, earned income, the adoption of climate-smart agricultural techniques and improvements in harvest production as a result of the project interventions. There were mixed outcomes in social norms related to decision-making power, fear of spouse, and confidence in speaking out in mixed-gender forums. Despite the inherent difficulty in measuring changes in resilience, the research supporting the BRB project suggests a sense of “bouncing back” among the treatment group after the 2017 drought in Burkina Faso compared to the comparison group.
From vision and strategy to end results, view this snapshot of the WomenLink project and how it has helped to expand financial inclusion of poor and low-income women in the Philippines.
WomenLink Phase 1 pilot tested a digital literacy and financial education program based on SMS (short message system). Messages delivered to women’s phones were designed to deliver simple but actionable information to deepen women’s understanding of Digital Financial Services in an effort to galvanize uptake by new customers and drive greater usage by current ones.
How can we strengthen women’s economic empowerment in Central America? With a $368K matching fund and wrap-around support
April 16, 2019 by Amelia Kuklewicz and Elliott Collins
Entrepreneurship is a vital part of life for women in Central America, where unemployment is 50 percent higher for women than for men. But women entrepreneurs are squeezed from many sides as they struggle to launch and grow their businesses.
The Grameen Foundation program, “Women’s Savings Groups for Better Reproductive Health in Bénin” advanced opportunities for rural women and their husbands to make choices about reproductive health that best fit their individual and family needs. It built on “Healthy Savings,” an earlier program by Freedom from Hunger (now part of Grameen Foundation). The Reproductive Health program worked with women’s savings groups to combine health savings with access to family planning education and linkages to health providers. The program served 11,590 women in 516 savings groups. Gender Dialogues--facilitated conversations about family planning—engaged husbands and partners in discussion, leading to greater joint decision-making among women and men in planning families and choosing birth control.
In 2015, Freedom from Hunger India Trust, Grameen Foundation and RESULTS Educational Fund launched the Maa aur Shishu Swasthya (MASS) (Mother and Child Health) program in India. Integrating the delivery of health education, financial services, and linkages to health care providers, the program reached more than half a million Indian women. Key components were implemented in West Bengal and Jharkhand with financial service partners Aikyatan Development Society (ADS) and Bandhan Konnagar. This comprehensive report highlights the key findings and learnings, and contains links to related resources developed by the program’s Community of Practice for Health and Microfinance (COPHAM).
Grameen Foundation research among low-income urban residents in India finds a gaping need for dental health financing and services. Nearly half of those surveyed had experienced an dental ailment in the last year, and nearly half of those did not seek care. Lack of dental health awareness, financing and access to services were major obstacles.
October 19, 2018
Grameen Foundation in India is training poor women in digital and financial literacy so they can launch microenterprises that extend financial services to their neighbors. The program is breaking barriers of caste and access, as seen in the story of Sindhu, the first Grameen Mitra.