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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

Today, people around the world are celebrating World Population Day, a day that seeks to bring attention to the importance of population issues in the context of development. The focus of this year’s event is adolescent pregnancy, with the aim to catalyze progress in securing a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

There are currently roughly 600 million girls globally ages 10 to 19, 500 million of whom live in developing countries. Each year, 16 million teenage girls give birth, and an additional 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. Even though 90 percent of these teenagers giving birth are married, they still experience conditions contributing to challenging pregnancies: inadequate education, sexual coercion, violence, rights violations (including child- and forced-marriages), and gender inequality. In addition to lesser hardships that can come from unplanned or uninformed pregnancies, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 around the world.

The United Nations is calling for commitments from countries, communities, and individuals to support the provision of quality education for girls from primary school through adolescence, including age-appropriate, comprehensive education on sexuality and health. It’s been found that when a girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, have children later, have healthier children, and earn a higher income. The UN also emphasizes the necessity for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Other areas that demand examination are the legal systems surrounding marriage (including minimum marriage ages) and women’s rights.

As we have posted about previously (see here, here, and here), the low level of financial inclusion among youth is a missed opportunity to contribute to their well-being. Starting youth out with financial services can be a good investment. A New America Foundation study suggests that instilling a habit of saving among youth sets them on a course for a lifetime of financial capability. According to Youth Economic Opportunities, girls who are less financially dependent are at lower risk for negative effects of early pregnancy and child bearing. In a recent World Bank paper on gender equality and development, it was found that lack of agency (that is, a person’s capability to advance goals she values) is a key factor driving poor reproductive health outcomes among women generally. For example, women in Bangladesh who had more decision-making power were more likely to access prenatal services and skilled birthing accommodations.

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Posted by Meghan Greene, Manager, CFI

The Center for Financial Inclusion works with teams of volunteers from Credit Suisse, one group of whom investigated programs that have features in common with the Financial Access at Birth concept. In this post, the group explores Mexico’s path-breaking Oportunidades program.

Government leadership in child finance programs can be both a blessing and a curse, as we outlined in another post. While governments can catalyze rapid scaling, they are also under constant pressure to reduce costs, and thereby may cut corners on key components, such as adequate marketing and advertising. Further, programs that receive their funding from the government are subject to the whims of budget decision making, as evidenced by the abrupt end to the UK’s Child Trust Funds.

Is it possible to design a program that can incorporate the advantages of government engagement while also minimizing potential pitfalls? Many turn to the Oportunidades conditional cash transfer program in Mexico for an example of the best-case scenario. In fact, Oportunidades seems to have come up in many CFI blog discussions in the last few months (see here, here, and here!). In this post we briefly explain what the Oportunidades program is and what makes it so successful.

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Posted by Meghan Greene, Manager, CFI

In the run up to this year’s U.S. presidential election, there has been much controversy over the topic of voter IDs. Seeking to curb voter fraud, numerous states have sought to implement stronger voting ID laws that would require prospective voters to present government-issued photo identification such as a drivers license or non-driver state ID. Additionally, last week the Supreme Court agreed to review Arizona’s law, which would require voters to demonstrate citizenship (via a document such as a passport or birth certificate).

Do many Americans really lack ID? As it turns out, yes. In a 2006 study , the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law found that 11 percent of American adults – or more than 21 million people – do not have a government-issued photo ID. This group is composed disproportionately of elderly, minorities, and low income persons: Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Holly Padgett

Can financial access and citizenship feasibly begin at birth? According to the Financial Access at Birth (FAB) initiative, with the right resources and momentum, it can. Bhagwan Chowdhry, FAB’s founder, recently published an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) that highlights the main ideas behind FAB and addresses some of the tough questions raised by supporters of the program.

The aim of FAB is to provide an initial deposit – say $100 – in an electronic savings account for every child at the time of birth. The bank account would be paired with a universal ID and mobile technology, creating a powerful system of incentives that would foster financial inclusion and possibly access to other services.  Ultimately this system would lay the “plumbing” for numerous social, financial, and health services.  According to Chowdhry, “it is an investment for an economically democratic society”. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Rosita Najmi


Ólafur R. Grímsson (President of Iceland), Rajendra Pachauri (Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and Bhaghwan Chowdhry (Founder, Financial Access at Birth) (l-r) present at PopTech 2011.

Planning a vacation or how to spend your professional development budget? I could not more highly recommend an investment of time and resources than PopTech’s next gathering. You can think of it as a luxurious intellectual cruise, where you consume delicious visions for the future, innovations to improve lives, arts to stimulate the mind and heart, and fellow passengers with whom to dream — and more importantly, take on future adventures and paths of service.

FAB was honored to be a participant in PopTech 2011. You can get a sense of what this gathering is like by viewing this recording and this follow-up written interview. Namely, PopTech convenes an eclectic mix of thought leaders and visionaries and invites them to share their ideas and progress towards realizing them through a number of activities, including 20-minute presentations.  These are not the typical PowerPoint-filled plenary presentations or panels to which you’re accustomed at other conferences. The day FAB was on stage, for example, examined the themes of rebalancing, reframing, restoring and researching; presentations were made by a family historian, a Nobel Prize winner, a space suit developer, and a president. The same day, an iPad app was launched; a funky band played; and we met a slew of impressive young scientists and innovators. The experience was truly a cynicism evaporator. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

A Freedom from Hunger Youth Savings Group in Mali

A Freedom from Hunger Youth Savings Group in Mali.

Worth checking out at the SEEP Network Blog: a piece on savings by CFI Program Manager Rosita Najmi.

Najmi’s guest post, like the Formal Savings Track of the 2011 SEEP Annual Conference from which it emerges, tackles several questions facing the industry:

  • Is there a business case?
  •  How do I design a savings product that is relevant and that clients will value?
  •  What changes do I need to manage in order to add savings to my suite of products and services?
  •  What do we do differently to provide savings opportunities for youth?

To read more, we invite you to click here on “Scaling Up Formal Savings: Lessons from the SEEP Annual Conference.”

Have you read?

Promoting Formal Financial Savings: Know Your Goal, Know Your Competition

What’s ‘A FAB Idea’? Financial Access at Birth, Says ‘The Economist’

At the Gates Foundation, Savings Is It




> Posted by Rosita Najmi

Financial Access at Birth (FAB) recently completed a preliminary needs assessment and feasibility study for its first pilot and is eager to introduce its findings to potential donors and implementation partners. More on that soon…

In the meantime, we write to acknowledge the rich learning and exchange of ideas we enjoyed through participating in the 2011 SEEP Network annual conference.

Day 1: FAB spent Member Day with associates of the SEEP Savings-Led Financial Services Working Group. With a focus on informal savings groups, the Working Group reported on an October 2011 gathering it organized, the Arusha Savings Groups Summit, which brought together over 250 savings groups practitioners, representing 46 countries. The format of the conference was participatory and included debates, research presentations, small group discussions, and a World Café exercise to share ideas on how better to collaborate and achieve impact. In addition to a follow-up conference in September 2012 (organized by Oxfam America, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation, and SEEP), the summit resulted in the creation of a publication with six chapters on themes of importance to the industry that were discussed at the event. These themes include the need for savings groups, related delivery channels, linkage of savings groups to formal financial services, savings-led development, development-led savings, and more. Among the contributing authors to this publication will be Jeff Ashe, Susan Johnson, Joanna Ledgerwood, Paul Rippey, Kim Wilson, and Megan Gash. We can all look forward to the publication in early 2012. In the meantime, enjoy this excellent website and blog regarding savings groups. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Rosita Najmi

Disclaimer: The following is not an official endorsement by this blog or its host organization. It is a personal reflection of the author and an unabashed promotion of an upcoming workshop on Wednesday, November 2nd, at the SEEP Network Conference.

“MONEY: a bank account parent and teen manage together” was the subject line of an email I received in late September from one of my personal banks, ING Direct. The opening line of the message that introduced me to one of its newest products was “It’s a learner’s permit for handling money.”

“Genius,” I thought. It was yet another proud moment I experienced as a customer of ING Direct. In case you are not familiar with the financial service provider represented by an orange lion, ING Direct is the ING Group’s brand for a branchless direct bank with operations in a number of countries in Western Europe and North America. It offers services over the web, phone, ATM, or by mail. Operations in the United States began in 2000, and ING Direct is a member of the FDIC. It took me a few years to sign up, but I eventually did because their business plan allowed ING Direct to provide the most competitive saving rates that I could find. Namely, they reduced costs through branchless banking among other innovations. Although I did not have a huge amount to save, every penny by which my savings could grow larger mattered. Read the rest of this entry »

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Credit Suisse is a founding sponsor of the Center for Financial Inclusion. The Credit Suisse Group Foundation looks to its philanthropic partners to foster research, innovation and constructive dialogue in order to spread best practices and develop new solutions for financial inclusion.


The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.