As a non-profit dedicated to poverty reduction, client welfare has been central to BRAC’s mission since its inception in 1972. In Bangladesh in general, almost all microfinance institutions are non-profits, and so microfinance has always been seen as a tool for alleviating poverty in the country.
The integration of mobile money into microfinance operations is one of the most exciting yet challenging prospects facing microfinance providers today. Mobile money presents a fast, cost-efficient and flexible alternative delivery channel through which money can be transferred, loans can be repaid and savings can be deposited.
You’d be forgiven for thinking microfinance has gone wildly out of fashion. The “development caravan”—defined as the wagon train of poverty interventions that excite donors—has pulled away from micro-lending, drawn to more powerful things like BRAC-style graduation programmes (which aim to “graduate” people from extreme poverty into a sustainable livelihood) and bKash-like mobile money, according to recent coverage in The Economist.
What comes to your mind when you think of microfinance? To me it’s 'easy access'- a key factor that has enabled the sector to reach 34 million poor people in Bangladesh, essentially bringing financial services to their doorstep.
What are some of the most effective innovations taking place in South Asia, the region that is bearing the brunt of climate change? How does one go about building resilience and from then to scaling? This post is the third in a series of blogs that will share BRAC’s lessons on building and scaling resilience to climate change.
Jazirah Namukose, 18, left school feeling the sting of rejection. Classmates discriminated against her because of her disability- a clubfoot. But her life changed when she started going to the Kikaaya girls’ club in northern Kampala, Uganda. She gained skills and the confidence to start her own business- and found friends who didn’t treat her differently because of her disability.
2015 was an important year for the world of financial inclusion. Starting with the publication of the six randomised controlled trials results in January that sparked debate on the impacts of microcredit, the sector went on to celebrate (and question) an increase of 700 million people with access to financial services since 2011, with the publication of the 2014 Global Findex.
“I can’t thank BRAC enough for standing beside me when I needed help the most,” Rahela, 24, a microfinance borrower and recipient of BRAC’s credit shield insurance, tells us. She borrowed USD 385 in January 2015 to invest in a small clothing business. Recalling her experience, she reveals, “My husband was not interested initially in having a joint insurance policy, but when the customer service assistant explained it in detail, we decided that we should pay the small premium.”
Imagine a world where there is no access to financial services. You cannot save, which means you cannot set aside money for the future. You cannot access a loan, which means you are shut off from a limitless number of opportunities, including investing in an enterprise, purchasing a home or land, or maintaining household expenses when cash is tight. You don’t have insurance or any kind of buffer against shocks, such as medical emergencies in the family, a sudden loss of a job, or natural disasters. Would you be able to manage?
Stuart Rutherford is an expert in financial services for the poor, and the author of ‘The Poor and Their Money’. He founded SafeSave in 1996, to provide basic banking services in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. Nearly two decades on SafeSave serves 19,000 clients, helping them afford everyday expenses and budget for bigger life events.
By the time we reached Rangoon Tea House – a fabled place mentioned in many travel literature- it was raining hard. The country representative of BRAC in Myanmar was taking me out to a legendary destination. We met his friends at a table with a fan whirring above with the blades shaped like palm leaves. Ancient black and white movies were projected on the wall with no sound; the silent movies contrasted with the bantering voices in the large room as people chatted and laughed.