With programs that address the related problems of access to financial and health services, food security, and income generation, Grameen Foundation’s integrated solutions tackle the root causes of poverty. They pay particular attention to women in rural areas. Although women are major contributors to family farming and income, their own financial, food, nutritional and health needs—and those of their children—often go unmet.
We know that access to finance at crucial times can meet those needs, and programs that integrate financial, agricultural and health solutions can initiate transformational change. Whether utilizing digital technology or applying our expertise in adult education, our programs connect people to practical information, services and training when and where it is needed.
Building Resilience in Burkina Faso (BRB) builds women’s capacity to withstand shocks, including drought and floods, and to improve livelihoods through engaging them in Savings Groups (SGs) that deliver an integrated package of agricultural, nutrition, health and financial information and services.
Between 2014 and 2018, BRB engaged more than 78,000 women through 3,119 savings groups. They received 963 agricultural loans and distributed $1.8 million to members to invest in agricultural production and income-generating activities. Meanwhile. training in climate smart agriculture enabled the women to double the yields of key crops.
In addition, 22 communities engaged in our “gender dialogues,” designed to encourage SG members and their spouses to develop their own visions for change in gender relations. These conversations focused on nutrition and securing women’s access to land for farming.
Now, savings groups are being offered access to formal financial services through mobile banking; training in climate-smart farming continues; and BRB is working with staff from the Ministry of Agriculture to address gender issues. Building Resilience in Burkina Faso is a project of Freedom from Hunger, a supporting organization to Grameen Foundation in Burkina Faso.
In 2018, Grameen Foundation co-launched WAGE, a four-year, global program to advance the status of women and girls worldwide. It aims to support women’s economic empowerment; prevent gender-based violence; and advance women’s roles in peacebuilding, mediation, and reform processes.
Grameen Foundation is leading WAGE’s first strategic initiative, “Reducing Barriers to Women’s Economic Empowerment in Central America." Working in El Salvador and Honduras, we are assessing the key barriers faced by women entrepreneurs, particularly in gaining access to finance. That assessment will guide the provision of technical assistance to local microfinance institutions that serve women. The initiative will also support the development of a loan matching fund administered by Kiva and address barriers posed by gender-based violence, conflict and insecurity, and social practices that inhibit women’s abilities to start up, finance and grow their businesses.
In addition to Grameen Foundation WAGE core partners are the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and Search for Common Ground.
Self-managed savings groups reach some of the world’s poorest and most remote women. Through these groups, we deliver financial, education, and health protection services. Our Saving for Change program provides group members with a structure for safe saving and a platform for learning how to protect and grow their money and their health.
Saving group members deposit small sums—often starting with weekly deposits of only 20 cents—and build lump sums for predictable needs. The groups also hold regular learning sessions on practical health, finance, and agricultural topics such as how to increase savings or prevent malaria.
The dialogue-based education does not require that women know how to read or write, and learning together strengthens the group. The women act as their own bankers, approving small loans to each other as savings accumulate. The interest they charge each other for the loans goes back into the pool of savings, yielding a return for each group member. Over time, the funds grow and allow members to meet larger financial needs such as healthcare, education, small business start-up and expansion, agriculture and the purchase of food during the hungry season. Saving for Change is a legacy program of Freedom from Hunger, now part of Grameen Foundation. It was developed with Oxfam America and the Strømme Foundation of Norway.