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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI
If you are in a wheelchair in Guatemala, lots of nice people will be willing to carry you up the stairs… But that’s not the point. A recent conversation with Alan Tenenbaum, a disability inclusion advocate based in Guatemala, offered me that perspective. Tenenbaum, who became a quadriplegic after suffering a spinal cord injury in his late twenties, focuses his work on the Latin American country. Those looking to advance disability inclusion in Guatemala, like in most countries, have their work cut out for them. Countrywide, according to Team Around the Child, less than two percent of Guatemalan adults with disabilities have work, most children with disabilities do not attend school, and only a small percentage of those in need of wheelchairs have one. To date, according to a recent paper from Trickle Up, most efforts to advance disability inclusion in Guatemala have been limited to urban areas – even though 50 percent of the country’s population resides in rural areas, where economic opportunities are harder to come by.
I sat down with Tenenbaum to get a sense for progress made and challenges still present in Guatemala for persons with disabilities (PwDs). Since his injury, Tenenbaum wrote a book sharing his story, En la Silla de Morfeo (On Morpheus’ Chair), started and led a foundation, Sigue Avanzando, and has regularly given speeches for schools, universities, news outlets, and private companies. At the heart of these efforts is what he identifies as the biggest barrier to disability inclusion: public awareness.
> Posted by Center Staff
Welcome to the second Financial Inclusion 2020 e-magazine!
It’s been a year since the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum. The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is taking this moment to review how the drive for financial inclusion is faring. With this e-zine we bring you highlights of the past 12 months from around the financial inclusion world – new ventures, milestones, and ongoing debates. Inside, you’ll find a snapshot of progress in each of our five “Roadmap to Inclusion” areas, from technology-enabled business models to consumer protection. Over the past months we spoke with dozens of industry participants to gauge their views of the progress of each major recommendation presented at the Global Forum, and we’ve distilled their responses here. We learned of many exciting initiatives, though we have room to cite only a few.
> Posted by Abhishek Agrawal, India Country Director, Accion
Over the past two years, CFI’s three MFI partners in India have included over 13,000 persons with disabilities (PWD) as clients in mainstream financial services, helping them become economically active. Almost all of these clients were first-time borrowers.
CFI and Accion, with our knowledge partner v-shesh and MFI implementation partners – Annapurna based in Odisha, Equitas based in Tamil Nadu, and ESAF from Kerala – have been working on the financial inclusion of persons with disabilities over the past two years. This working group created tools and an operating model for MFIs to incorporate PWD as staff and clients. The recommendations, which include policy changes in non-discrimination and other areas, are being piloted at the MFIs. Disability awareness trainings have been conducted for over 100 MFI staff across the country. Over the next several months these staff will train another 6,000 frontline MFI staff.
> Posted by Debashis Sarker, Senior Manager, BRAC Microfinance Program, Bangladesh
Microfinance institutions in Bangladesh have more than 30 years of glorious experience of serving poor people with the twofold objectives of women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation. The proven microfinance lending model has been replicated in many developing countries, and more people in Bangladesh have become financially included over time. But what about financial inclusion of a most vulnerable group, persons with disabilities (PWD)?
People with disabilities simply did not get access to the leading lending sources in Bangladesh because of discrimination and accessibility barriers. Regular discrimination, taking the forms of negative attitudes, social exclusion, lack of economic opportunities, and unpaid or underpaid work, has long been an integral part of the lives of PWD. Extremely poor disabled people in rural Bangladesh mostly work in the informal sector with minimum wage rates, reflecting severe discrimination in the workplace. Family members often see them as burden. They may be turned down when trying to rent houses in urban areas. People with disabilities, especially women, are disadvantaged when it comes to education, employment, and even marriage. They may be left out of decision-making and participation in social occasions. In fact, many Bangladeshi people see disability as a curse and cause of shame to the family, and at the national level, Bangladesh has not yet passed an anti-discrimination law.
With under 40 days to go, the 17th Microcredit Summit is rapidly approaching. CFI’s Josh Goldstein will be speaking during a plenary session focused on new innovations for microfinance and other financial inclusion interventions to more effectively reach the excluded. With the theme “Generation Next: Innovations in Microfinance,” this should be a great opportunity to explore what is on the horizon to achieve full financial inclusion. In this post, Josh discusses industry context surrounding the Summit, and what he hopes he and those in attendance will be able to take away from the event.
I am a sometime skeptic about the proliferation of microfinance conferences, but the upcoming Microcredit Summit in Merida, Mexico seems particularly important and timely. Personally, I am very excited about it. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should add that I will be a speaker, and of course piqued vanity can certainly lead to bias, but I don’t suspect this is the case here.)
> Posted by Joshua Goldstein, Principal Director for Economic Citizenship & Disability Inclusion, CFI
Last week my colleague Sonja Kelly and Bancomer’s Ruben Marquez highlighted the importance of the cultural contexts of words that are used in financial services (e.g. the impact of using the word for saving instead of keeping in Mexico). This got me thinking about the consequences of the words we use as names for social groups, and where these names originate.
There is a consensus among disabled people in the English-speaking world today that person with disability is the preferred term when describing a member of their community and how they would like the non-disabled to refer to them. A couple of decades ago disabled person was preferred – for example, 1983-1992 was the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons.
This is not a pedantic fuss over nothing, as it might at first blush seem. It goes right to the heart of establishing a positive identity for a downtrodden minority. The proper term is currently being worked out in Hindi – and perhaps in many other languages around the world – where persons with disabilities are just now insisting on their rights to full participation in civil society.
> Posted by Siddhartha Chowdri, Program Manager, Disability Inclusion, India, CFI
How does the microfinance community view persons with disabilities (PWD)? This economically disenfranchised population makes up less than one percent of microfinance clients around the world, leaving the vast majority of PWD excluded. Many PWD would benefit from financial services. Yet even the most intense Google, Bing, or Yahoo search will yield almost no in-depth research into how persons with disabilities are perceived among the leaders and staff of microfinance institutions (MFIs). For my focus country of India, no research at all is related to this topic. We hope that a new CFI paper authored by Vipin Gupta of Credit Suisse, Making Microfinance Accessible to Persons with Disabilities: Awareness and Attitudes Among Indian Microfinance Institutions, will be the starting point for more research and action in this area.
Over the last two years CFI has been working with three leading Indian MFIs – Equitas, ESAF, and Annapurna – to refine and develop tools that institutions across the world can use to make themselves more accessible to PWD. CFI also partnered with v-shesh, an India-based social enterprise with expertise in disability inclusion. At the start of this work, CFI and v-shesh decided to conduct research on the existing environments at these MFIs. The purpose of this research was two-fold:
- Learn which areas related to disability inclusion should be emphasized during the planned trainings and accessibility audits.
- Establish a baseline understanding of the existing views of disability inclusion at the MFIs for subsequent monitoring of changes.
Last November, the v-shesh team surveyed hundreds of MFI staff at all levels as well as MFI clients – both with disabilities and without. They also conducted intensive focus group discussions to gather additional qualitative information to prepare for the trainings.
> Posted by Joshua Goldstein aka Mr. Provocative
There is unfortunately no reliable substitute for family support when it comes to helping a person succeed with their schooling, with their disability, or with their microfinance loan.
Thomas Friedman of The New York Times recently asked educators in Shanghai what made Chinese schools successful, compared to schools in the United States. The unequivocal answer was that while improved teacher training that the U.S. emphasizes was of course important, far and away the key to student achievement was intensive parental involvement; Chinese schools spend time and resources insuring that parents are trained in how to help their children learn.
A heretical Mr. Provocative agrees with conservatives that throwing billions into the latest education reform fad will have extremely limited success as long as family support is anemic or absent. (This is not to say that reformers don’t routinely ask parents to take more responsibility but clearly such a nudge is not enough.) “It’s the parents, stupid,” or, “It’s the family, stupid.”
We have to point at the family as the prime mover even when this is hurtful and it causes “guilt and shame.” Nothing wrong with pricking the conscience. This is a “theory of change” that is millennia old and has long had some success for most religions—in a positive way. But public policy cognoscenti shun the language of judgment and conscience. In not asking more of families are we not party to what George W. Bush called “the bigotry of low expectations?”
My “it’s the family, stupid” sentiment has been reinforced by listening to a recent Ted Talk by Stanford graduate and Rhodes Scholar, Rachel Kolb, who was born profoundly deaf.