The Power of Inclusive Systems: Meeting the Needs of Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Economies
FINCA Canada, in partnership with the Government of Canada, is designing unique projects and services to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs in developing economies.
Sally Yacoub calls them the faceless and nameless of the economy: women entrepreneurs in the developing world.
In low income and rural countries, women are generally excluded from the global economy. They are not empowered to make financial decisions.
Through her work with FINCA Canada, Yacoub is helping to change this.
Yacoub is a Gender Officer. She describes her role as “bringing the experiences of women and men to the table equally in order to ensure that projects, products, and services meet the interests and needs of all.” However, Yacoub readily admits that this often means providing opportunities specifically for women. She points out that this is essential in order to help businesswomen in developing economies move past the many cultural and societal barriers they face, such as a lack of formal education and limited access to financial services.
In many large families, only the boys go to school. The girls will grow up illiterate and learn only rudimentary math skills. Additionally, many women in developing economies, particularly those in poorer areas, have no assets to their name—they own no property and have no bank account. These facts can exclude them from being able to access a loan through a traditional financial institution. Traditional banks see them as too great a risk. “Banks are often not interested in serving low-income or disadvantaged segments,” says Yacoub. This is where FINCA Canada is making an impact. “Through FINCA Canada’s microfinance programs, we are working to ensure these entrepreneurs are included.”
FINCA Canada considers these entrepreneurs through a different lens.
For example, it recognizes these business-owners in the community market share a powerful asset: trust in each other. These entrepreneurs work across from one another’s market stalls day after day. They know each other’s work ethic and credibility so they are willing to co-sign for on loans. FINCA provides group loans to business-owners allowing each woman to empower the other to succeed and the whole community benefits.
Along with each loan, FINCA Canada mitigates its risk by providing skills development training for its clients, such as basic accounting. This builds self-confidence and helps the clients make better business decisions.
With more than 16 years of experience serving and supporting people in developing countries, Yacoub has seen first hand the transformative power of financial inclusion.
I am very lucky to have seen how the financial sector can really have an impact on the lives of less-advantaged people,“specifically women. It can have immediate impact on whole family.
When women have access to capital, the gains ripple out into the whole community. Women business-owners tend to spend their earnings on home, food and their children’s education. Thus every dollar loaned contributes indirectly to the health and education of the next generation; but a non-traditional approach to risk and lending is required.
Yacoub is currently using her expertize to help FINCA Canada assess its programs in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She will determine how to improve programming and services for clients and staff. While she’s excited about this new opportunity, Yacoub is clear about one thing:
Don’t make assumptions about the needs of low-income people. We want to act only as a bridge between our services and our clients. It’s critical we empower our clients to take more control over their lives.