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> Posted by Daniel Balson, Lead Specialist for Eurasia and MENA, the Smart Campaign

Outside the Tosh Hovli Stone Palace of Khiva, an Uzbek lady practices her craft, knitting.

At the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI), we spend a lot of time thinking of ways economically marginalized people can gain access to the capital they need to lift themselves out of poverty. Through our work, we’ve repeatedly seen that, while talent is universal, opportunity is not. Large swathes of the population across the developing world have limited access to the formal financial system and are stuck managing money in ways that are often inconvenient, inefficient, and sometimes even involve humiliation and abuse.

Focusing on places where economically vulnerable people are at risk, however instructive, risks obscuring the fact that great divides exist across gender in many diverse geographies. In developed countries as in the developing nations, women lag behind men in indicators that measure entrepreneurship and economic empowerment. Their societies are poorer for it. In the U.K., women-led businesses are far less likely to secure financing; 91 percent of investment was directed to companies without even one female founder. In the U.S., women make up half the labor force but own just a third of all companies.

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> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research Director, Grameen Foundation

We need to ensure products and services help family units, not just individuals, thrive.

Writing in 1982, about Fred Astaire, Robert Thaves wrote “Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards…and in high heels.” Since then, this quote about two legendary dancers has been used to celebrate the skills and talents of women and to demonstrate their ability to juggle complexity and pull it off gracefully.

At Grameen Foundation, we celebrate women for the potential they carry for ending poverty and hunger. In fact, some statistics suggest that if women farmers had the same resources as their male counterparts, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by 150 million. Beyond access to quality farm inputs, credit, and land, we also know that when women have equal access to education, health services, and business services they can thrive economically. Helping mothers be healthy before and during pregnancy also results in healthier children and more productive societies. Women are a key driving force against poverty.

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> Posted by Christy Stickney, Habitat for Humanity

Can we possibly address financial inclusion without discussing housing microfinance?

Financing for housing is in great demand, frequently cited as clients’ top choice after a business loan, and is the most commonly identified utilization of business financing outside of financing businesses. MFIs consistently report that housing portfolios perform as well as or better than other loan products, and believe that it balances portfolio risk and increases profitability (even though concrete data is often lacking).

Housing microfinance typically refers to non-mortgage housing loans utilized primarily for home improvements, repairs, and incremental building. Loan terms are generally under three years, and interest rates tend to be within the market range for microfinance loans. For the majority of the world’s poor, who build homes incrementally as financing becomes available, housing microfinance is uniquely tailored to match their building and financing patterns. Moreover, improved housing contributes to social benefits of improved health, education, economic stability and security. So why is it that housing microfinance isn’t growing faster, given the compelling advantages to both financial institutions and the clients they serve? Read the rest of this entry »

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