2020 was traumatic for many people as the coronavirus claimed lives, disrupted livelihoods, and derailed the economy. FINCA’s clients, among the most vulnerable in their societies, were some of the worst affected. Women, in particular, bore the brunt of the pandemic. Along with losing jobs and incomes, women also had to endure the burden of unpaid caregiving and domestic work.
FINCA’s Emergency Response Fund provided relief to many of the women affected, many of which took the initiative to adapt quickly to the adverse circumstances. Eugénie, a seamstress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lost 70 percent of her monthly revenue in the first month of the pandemic. But she switched quickly to making masks to compensate her business losses. Through word-of-mouth, she received orders from her customers as well as associations and small enterprises. With these quick sales, she was soon able to re-hire two employees.
Stories like Eugénie’s demonstrate the resilience and resourcefulness of FINCA’s women clients. But recovering from months of extreme economic and social stress will be an ongoing battle throughout the course of 2021 and perhaps thereafter. FINCA will make sure to continue to focus on raising women up, helping them achieve their personal aspirations over the course of the year.
FINCA will expand investments in mobile banking, empowering clients to use a simple cellphone to make loan payments and conduct other routine transactions. While beneficial to all clients, research shows that mobile banking is especially transformative for women as they face greater challenges to even make it through the front door of a traditional brick-and-mortar bank. FINCA will also grow its network of banking agents, local merchants equipped with biometric devices that allow nearby clients to carry out transactions just by scanning their fingerprints.
As Suwilanji Moomba, one of FINCA’s banking agents in Zambia, says:
Someone is selling vegetables and they’re just uncomfortable going to the bank every day because they feel intimidated. But when it’s local like this, it’s easy for someone to help her. It also helps because agents can speak to the clients in the local languages as well. It’s a wonderful feeling to grow with your customers.
Finally, FINCA will build and strengthen partnerships with social enterprises to provide life-enhancing services–education, electricity, health–to its clients. FINCA will work tirelessly to help the people it serves build back better this year.