A pink bank account could be a tipping factor in reducing gender equality in developing countries. It is also one of the most fascinating potentially-emerging trends for women’s rights that I’ve seen in a long time.
The whole topic started with my resistance to go to Western Union and transfer cash to some ladies who were helping me on a research project in Ecuador (where our cacao is farmed and ground). As a third generation social entrepreneur, you don’t need to tell me how questionable ‘holding accounts’ are, regardless of the institution, and I have experienced first-hand the exploitation of my gender in developing countries, so the chances that my dear helpers can even access 100% of the cash I send is unlikely, without a bribe, a note, a kiss, a whatever.
A bank account is difficult to set up sometimes, especially if you’re from a rural area, inconsistent with finances and don’t have a clear local ‘backer’. I watched many times, the large lines in Guayaquil of agri-financing at a local government institution and the ‘uncles’ that would accompany some of the ladies who came in from the mountains to pick up their cash, only able to get the cash if someone ‘credible’ came with them.
I recently read a paper that made my heart click. And I thought, albeit it totally cliché, of pink bank cards. E-Cash payments can actually help bring girls out of poverty, and back-influence core gender inequality topics of schooling, disease prevention and reproductive health programs. The idea, is to target adolescent girls (because they are in the time / place to best learn and use new ways going forward).
The terms is called ‘financially-inclusive e-payments’, and it is a double-header, meaning to improve an adolescent girls’ access to financial services and to teach her about asset-building opportunities.
Adolescence is the time of exploration and learning, the prime opportunity to not only help a girl get work but know how to access her cash and what to do with it. I realise that the problem of over overall poverty, and even equal access to working opportunities is already highly unbalanced.
The UN has a massive program targeting this, The United Nations Millennium Development Goal 3, to “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women,” as well as Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation etc.
My personal approach in social entrepreneurship is to contribute small, do-able, meaningful actions that are closely related to something I can understand. It is not my skill-set, nor ability to affect HIV, but this idea of helping girls understand the fundaments of finance, is a very small but meaningful idea we could get behind.
Girl-centered asset-building strategies is what it’s called.
Over the past decades, we have seen e-payments for savings but there is still the big gap for specific invest, grow and leverage elements. Micro-credit has been a huge contribution in this area, but there is another level that can be achieved.
Overall, the idea is that it could provide adolescent girls with access to formal financial systems, help them get their formal identity and rights, help funds that support major girl-focused programs to achieve a better return on investment (and see where their schemes go), and of course, let’s not forget the banks, it helps them expand their customer base. I know, the last one sounds totally banal, but if there is one thing I have learned about ‘sustainability’, it is that every idea and program must be, end-to-end, a win-win for everyone in the chain. If that means a bank. Then so well be it. Another benefit is that social protection payments can go directly where it needs to be, and not filtered through a third (or seventh) party. This means that actions of great needs, like education and health can actually produce better results as the cash will be used with skill, and also directly sent where it is needed.
What about the other things you find stuffed into modern chocolate – sugar, milk and other animal fats (go on, check the ingredients list on the backside of your nearest chocolate). Remember the details of what you read on the packet guidelines of your favourite chocolate? This is where it starts to become relevant.
The multiplier effect is the core of any effect, from tipping point to purple cow.
The ideas range from in-school banking (via e-payments) to using the information of the bank account to target adolescent girls to be and feel independent, show to savings habits can be developed and what personal and community investment can mean. In over a dozen countries across the world, more than 50 percent of girls—and in some nations as much as 87 percent—do not complete primary school.
Globally, approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school at all. In Ecuador, thankfully that rate is higher, so we DO have a chance to access them in a systemised way.
Adolescent girls are the most vulnerable population on the planet. Between the ages of 10-19, there are over 580 million girls. At least 90 million of these beloveds are in low-income countries where the income is less than USD 1,005 per year per person.
They can either join the economy, or go to the kitchen or the fields.
Over 100 million girls aged 5-17 are involved in child labor, with the most of them doing dangerous work. Studies show they also do a lot of ‘informal work’ where girls are particularly isolated and vulnerable. The sooner they can be counted, and use methods to ensure that the benefits they work for come directly to them, the better they can influence other major topics such as health improvement.
Teenage girls are not only the answer to social improvement, but the World Bank has a study indicating that they are also the key to economic growth and stability. My family are all social entrepreneurs, and hardly did charity.
The difference, between charity and helping someone help themselves, in my mother’s words is dignity; in the end, it is empowerment.
Adolescent girls are apparently the biggest contributing factor that can influence intergenerational poverty than programs targeting children generally.
“Measuring the Economic Effects of Investing in Girls: The Girl Effect Dividend,” the World Bank’s Jad Chaaban and Wendy Cunningham wrote that if young women in Brazil were employed at the same levels as men, the annual national GDP would rise USD 23 billion. In lifetime income by that logic, they calculate that India would add almost USD 400 billion to its GDP.
Big steps, big goals, but something that is a little smaller and helped by technology could be e-payments targeting teenagers.
Making pink bank accounts and teaching fun finance school.. I am going to try this. Usually when I travel, I hold events about nutrition, and often reach out to areas of a society who are not well informed about processed food vs fresh food. I am often in areas of not desperate poverty, but where industrialisation spread it’s toxicity and supplies cheap candy and processed foods, and I teach about making chocolate fun and healthy. There is a chance in this, to slip in a few finance lessons. That is a very do-able idea. Which can start now. And will. On my next event.
For perspective, I looked around for some models, and in the developed world found that the Girl Scouts movement has a program for girl-focused finance development. Check it out here: http://bit.ly/girlscoutaccount
The barriers that exist for AGYW to access cash (what the academics call adolescent girls and young women) range from regulatory to physical, to cultural:
The Adolescent Girls Initiative at the World Bank
Launched on October 10, 2008, as part of the World Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan, the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) aims to help adolescent girls and young women make a successful transition from school to work.
The program is being piloted in 8 low-income countries–including some of the toughest environments for girls. Each program is tailored to the country context, with a common goal of discovering what works best in programming to help adolescent girls and young women succeed in the labor market. Each pilot includes a rigorous impact evaluation. With new knowledge of what works, successful approaches can be replicated and brought to scale. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/gender