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Financial inclusion can fight povertyRoughly 1.7 billion adults around the world are unbanked and most unbanked adults live in developing countries. Unbanked people have limited political, economic and social power and influence. For roughly half of the world’s unbanked who come from the most impoverished 40% of households in their economies, inaccessible financial services compound problems of poverty. Financial inclusion can fight poverty as it opens doors for people to improve their lives. The pace of technological advancement around the world is bringing universal access to financial services closer to fruition.

The Global Unbanked

Unbanked people are not connected to any type of financial institution. The most commonly cited reasons for being unbanked are not having enough money, account expenses, the distance of financial services and insufficient documentation. Nearly half of the unbanked population falls into just seven economies. The highest numbers of unbanked people are in China and India. It can be clearly noted that banking and poverty are closely related.

“Financial tools for savings, insurance, payments and credit are a vital need for poor people, especially women, and can help families and whole communities lift themselves out of poverty,” says Melinda Gates. Without a bank account, people cannot sufficiently save and the cash is not well protected. The digital economy also has the benefit of keeping a clear record of financial activities, which banks can use when underwriting loans. Loans are among the financial tools that are essential to financial growth and stability.

The Gender Gap

Women make up the majority of the unbanked population in most developing countries. Women may face deepened or additional gender-based barriers to account ownership, rooted in financial institutions, governments or society.

Financial institutions often lack products and policies that are gender-inclusive. For instance, women may find it difficult to obtain the identification or the assets needed to open and maintain an account, sometimes due to government-enforced barriers. Additionally, banking-related expenses are also a burden for women looking to enter the formal economy. Finally, the responsibility of unpaid household labor, along with barriers to education, keep many women from earning enough money to access financial services.

The Societal Roles of Women

Women may earn sufficient money but could be part of society that does not allow for them to connect to a financial institution.

For instance, the tradition of men being the head of household and in control of the finances leaves some women with little to no influence in matters of money. Approximately one in 10 women in developing countries are not involved in spending decisions involving their own earnings.

Women’s Empowerment for Poverty Reduction

Women must be part of financial inclusion efforts as they are integral to fighting poverty. Bill Gates explains that women are most likely to be behind the decisions that benefit the family. More women-led businesses and reduced inequalities are ways that an emphasis on financial inclusion for women can further a nation’s development.

Financial Inclusion Using Fintech

An emerging industry is making strides in financial inclusion. Financial technology (fintech) can be described as technological innovations in the processes and products of financial services. Fintech offers solutions to many of the problems at the root of financial exclusion. A fundamental problem is the lack of time or money to travel to distant financial institutions. Fintech has given users the convenience of accessing their accounts and financial services on a mobile device.

Fintech development has been gaining momentum since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Touchless transactions and banking reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 and have led many to embrace digital payment, in business and in personal practice. Fintech leaders are proving that underserved communities can be reached through financial technologies. Significantly, this helps foster financial stability for the formerly excluded.

Female-led fintech, Oraan, is working toward financial equality in Pakistan because women make up 48% of the population but only 6.3% of the formal economy. Oraan developed a platform that allows for digital savings groups. Savings groups can help empower women and ensure financial equity as they are well-established financial tools.

The Road to Universal Access

Because financial inclusion can fight poverty, digitized financial services are an effective way to improve access and inclusion. Online banking communities are empowering individuals and opening up opportunities for economic growth. By facilitating conversations about finances, informing underserved groups on the best financial practices and ensuring digital finance infrastructure is accessible, the world can make greater strides toward financial inclusion.

Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

Activists Fighting World Poverty
Hunger is a prevalent issue that impacts children, families and individuals in countries across the globe. Despite the major scale of this issue, determined individuals can play major roles in providing food security to thousands. Sharing their ideas and resources on how to reduce hunger around the world, here are four activists fighting global poverty.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education activist. The Taliban shot her in the head in 2012 for publicly advocating an end to gender discrimination in education. Since then, she has become a U.N. Messenger of Peace, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the co-founder of the Malala Fund. Oftentimes, those in poverty cannot receive quality education which also limits social mobility. The Malala Fund is addressing world poverty by providing education to millions of girls. This organization created the Education Champion Network, which helps provide education to girls in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. The Malala Fund has partnered with Apple Inc. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as individuals such as Angelina Jolie, to help support the 130 million girls being denied an education around the world.

Ernesto Sirolli

Ernesto Sirolli is a leading activist on economic development for those in poverty. Born in Italy, Sirolli worked for an Italian NGO in Zambia. This NGO taught Zambian communities how to grow Italian vegetables. There was resistance to the NGO’s efforts and, as a result, the organization paid wages to the Zambian communities working with them. Before the communities could harvest the vegetables, Sirolli witnessed a group of hippos rise out of the river and devour their new agriculture. Only then did he understand the true threat of local resistance.

From this experience, Sirolli discovered the issues that arise from what he calls “dead aid” from many Western countries. He questioned whether the more than $2 trillion from Western countries dedicated to developing communities was being used in a non-patronizing way. He noticed that NGOs rarely worked with local entrepreneurs on an individual level.

Sirolli developed a philosophy of economic aid for those in poverty in which the primary principle is respect. He created the Sirolli Institute International Enterprise Facilitation Inc., a network that gives local entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop their own ideas and benefit their own communities. Sirolli offers local people privacy, confidentiality, dedicated service and other essential components of entrepreneurship.

Louise Fresco

Louise Fresco is a Dutch researcher and activist who advocates for smart agriculture as the key to fighting world hunger. In 2000, she became the assistant-director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and brought her ideas to an international scale. Fresco uses the evolution of bread as a metaphor to explain food’s role in the development of modern society.

Over time, bread has evolved from a staple to a cheap contributor to obesity. Additionally, Fresco discusses the large-scale production that has resulted in the mass destruction of landscapes. This negative association, combined with the negative environmental impacts of mass production, has created a counter-culture where people prefer to buy bread made from small-scale sellers. However, Fresco argues, buying from small-scale producers is a luxury solution for those who can afford it. People in poverty simply benefit from diverse, low-cost and safe bread.

Cheap bread symbolizes that food has become increasingly affordable. The human race currently has more available food than ever before, which allows people to focus on other activities. Humans have not had the luxury of ample food production until now when it has become so cheap compared to previous years. Fresco believes that to solve world hunger, countries must increase food production with subtle mechanization to avoid large-scale environmental destruction.

Melinda Gates

Along with her husband Bill, Melinda Gates is the co-founder of the world’s largest private charitable organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a $40 billion trust endowment that helps solve issues including global health, global development, global policy and global growth or opportunity.

Melinda Gates has used her position to focus on empowering women around the world. Specifically, Gates concentrates on family planning, maternal well-being and child health. She has spread awareness about “time poverty,” which is the idea that many women perform hours of unpaid work that can deprive them of their potential.

The Gates Foundation has donated to Mama Cash and Prospera, two prominent international women’s funds. Since 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has put upwards of $560 million toward women’s health.

Each of these activists fighting world poverty is taking a different approach to eradicating global hunger. However, the culmination of these efforts is making a major impact around the world, one person at a time.

– Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

Inspirational Books with Advocate Authors
Book lovers or activists on the search for an inspirational read should find interest in this book list. From stories of equal access to education to serving the world’s poor, here is a list of five inspirational books with advocate authors.

5 Inspirational Books with Advocate Authors

  1. “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb: Growing up in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai faced barriers as a woman. Malala loved school, but her life changed when the Taliban took over her town. It banned girls from attending school when she was 11 years old. After speaking out on behalf of girls’ right to an education, a masked gunman shot Malala while on her bus ride home from school. Miraculously, she survived and became an advocate for girls everywhere, sharing her story in her book “I am Malala.” She once said, “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”
  2. “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela: Regarded as an international hero for his fight against racial oppression in South Africa, Mandela went on to tell his story in this inspirational autobiography. Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and was also the leader of the African National Congress’ armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, before his presidency in South Africa from 1994-1999. Mandela received a conviction on charges of sabotage and other crimes as he led a movement against apartheid, serving 27 years in prison. Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his groundbreaking work that led to the beginning of the end to apartheid.
  3. “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates: A New York Times instant best-seller, Melinda Gates’ “The Moment of Lift” tells the stories of the women she met during her years of humanitarian work and research around the world. Simultaneously, she also tells the story of her personal journey to achieving equality in her marriage to Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Gates makes this foundational claim in her evocative book: “When we lift up women, we lift up humanity.” President Barack Obama praised Gates’ first book for its power and importance: “In her book, Melinda tells the stories of the inspiring people she’s met through her work all over the world, digs into the data and powerfully illustrates issues that need our attention—from child marriage to gender inequity in the workplace.”
  4. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama: Michelle Obama, the first African American First Lady of the United States of America, tells her impressive story in this thought-provoking novel. From growing up on the south side of Chicago, balancing an executive position, motherhood and her time as First Lady, Obama demonstrates her dedication as an advocate for women and girls everywhere. In this number one U.S. bestselling memoir, Obama promotes inclusivity and displays important advancements toward healthy living for families everywhere, cementing her place in this list of inspirational books with advocate authors.
  5. “Mother Theresa: In My Own Words” by Mother Teresa: Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who worked for over 40 years in India. She ministered for the sick and poor as she founded and expanded the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa became a famed humanitarian and advocate for the poor by 1970. She received the Nobel Peace Prize for her inspirational and selfless work in Calcutta, India. A collection of quotes, stories and prayers, “Mother Teresa: In My Own Words” is a testament to the power of her words, not only for the poor but for everyone around the globe.
Poverty links inextricably to so many other issues that are plaguing the world today. Between equal access to education, food security and racial segregation, it is impossible to ignore the connection between all of these issues. These inspirational books with advocate authors serve as informative and motivational pieces of writing that remind everyone to be global citizens and actively fight for one another.

– Hannah White
Photo: Flickr

Clinton_and_Gates
On February 13, Hillary Clinton, joined by Melinda Gates, spoke at New York University in a conversation called “Women and Girls Count.” The largely female audience received a special message from Clinton: “Develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide.”

Clinton’s speech at NYU, moderated by her daughter Chelsea, was part of the joint venture of both the Clinton and the Gates Foundation called, “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project.” The initiative’s goal is to both evaluate and spread awareness of the progress made by women and girls since the United Nations Fourth World Conference of Women that took place in Beijing.

The foundations have teamed up with technological leaders to gather data about the participation of women and girls worldwide. In a recent press release by the Clinton Foundation, the data will be released in a report in 2015.

In regard to the importance of having data, Clinton said, “If we don’t have data, we can’t tell you or ourselves what has been accomplished and what is left to do.” She went on to say, “We have to be able to prove the naysayers wrong.”

Both Clinton women and Gates took a number of questions on different topics. The topics included the recent decrease in women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), questions on women being in leadership positions, as well as the role that men can play in empowering women in the workplace.

Clinton and Gates strongly addressed how men can support women and how they can encourage younger women to become leaders. Clinton said, “I think the last three presidents have modeled with their daughters how male leaders can invest in their daughters, but I would like to see more leaders in countries where women are second class citizens or below to set a standard as well.”

Clinton made an interesting point in noting that she believes women and girls need to receive more encouragement than males of the same age. She offered her own insight in saying, “I have employed by this time a lot of very talented young men and young women and offering a promotion or expanded responsibilities almost always provokes a response something like, ‘I don’t know if I could do that’ or ‘Are you sure I could do that?’” Clinton went on to make a larger point in that young men very rarely make the same comments.

Gates named Warren Buffet, one of the Gates Foundation’s partners, as an example of a male leader who has been of great help to many women in developing their careers. Gates believes that it is important for more men to do the same.

Furthermore, Gates said in reference to the world’s future female leaders, “Be yourself. Don’t use the few stereotypes of ‘female leadership.’ Be yourself when you lead and have a base of support that will always support you.”

Clinton and Gates had a profound impact on the audience, who gave the women a standing ovation upon both their entry and exit. After the talk, #NoCeilings was trending on Twitter.

It will be interesting to see what impact the report will have when it is released in 2015 and if it will help to create a group of new female leaders.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: NYU Local, ABC News
Photo: Clinton Foundation

kristof_africa_funny
Twitter often has a reputation as being a stream of inconsequential fluff, with trending topics focusing on celebrity gossip or personal confessions. Yet, twitter can offer a continuous stream of valuable information on international affairs and development from the best in the world, summarized in less than 140 characters. The following are good sources for learning about the latest in international development issues.

Melinda Gates – @melindagates: Almost as famous as her husband, Melinda Gates acts as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her twitter account covers a range of issues, from tweeting live updates from her travels to posting bulletins about global health, to women’s rights and development news.

Nicholas Kristof – @NickKristof: A Pulitzer prize winning writer for the New York Times, Kristof is one of the most influential voices in international development. Known for his conscience and his tireless, hard-hitting journalism, Kristof’s tweets are a mix of links to his work, opportunities for getting involved, and opinions on current events.

Anne-Marie Slaughter – @SlaughterAm: Princeton Professor, director of Policy Planning, and formerly employed by the U.S. State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter has impressive credentials. Her twitter feed is a slew of information on occurrences around the world, and not only the ones found in the headlines.

Susan Rice – @AmbassadorRice: U.S. Representative at the U.N. (though she finishes her post on Sunday June 30), Ambassador Rice’s twitter feed is a heartening look into all the work the U.S. does on behalf of oppressed groups around the world, and a reminder of all that is left to do.

Michael Clemens – @m_clem: One of the intellectual users of twitter, Clemens is a Harvard educated senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. He tweets links to in-depth discussions on development and economics.

Tom Murphy – @aviewfromthecave: A Boston based journalist and blogger, Tom Murphy was named one of Foreign Policy’s twitter accounts to follow, with good reason. Murphy has an amiable tone and feels like a friend referring you to worthwhile reading, if the reading is some of the industry’s best articles on aid and development (with the occasional mention of less heavy subjects, like Angry Birds).

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: Twitter, Foreign Policy
Photo: GOOD

Expanding Contraceptive Accessibility
Women Deliver, a global advocacy organization that speaks for improved health and wellbeing for girls and women around the world, held a conference in Malaysia earlier this month called “Women Deliver 2013″. One of the most exciting strategies discussed at the conference involved contraceptive accessibility for women in developing countries. In 2012, global leaders pledged more than $2.6 billion to provide women and girls in developing countries with “voluntary access to contraceptive services, information, and supplies by 2020.”

Speakers at Women Deliver 2013 noted the importance of providing this kind of healthcare for women that have no access to it. Melinda Gates stated, “Putting women at the center of development and delivering solutions that meet their needs will result in huge improvements in health, prosperity, and quality of life.” She added, “When women have access to contraceptives they’re healthier, their children are healthier, and their families thrive.”

Many people do not recognize the significance of this issue, yet an estimated 150 million women worldwide do not have contraceptive accessibility they desire. In developing countries, pregnancy can be very dangerous for women and lead to greater risks of death or injury of both the mother and her children in childbirth. In addition, women in developing countries face a greater risk of death after bearing too many children and often are not allowed the necessary time for healing in between pregnancies. By providing contraception to delay or prevent pregnancies, young women in developing countries can minimize the risks associated with childbirth, care for the other children they have, and even have new opportunities for education or supporting themselves through work.

Leaders from Senegal, Indonesia, and the Philippines, among others, have pledged to expand family planning programs and access. According to UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, “These countries show that we can make an impact on women’s access to reproductive health if we rally the necessary political will and financial commitments.” He continues, “Expanding access to contraceptives is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to save lives and ensure the health and wellbeing of future generations.”

These strategies and investments could help to foster healthy populations, as well as allow women and girls to spend more time learning and becoming independent, instead of spending years of their lives raising and caring for their children.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: Ghana Business News
Photo: Facebook