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> Posted by Eric Zuehlke, Web and Communications Director, CFI

Accion MfB staff explaining the PLWD product to clients

Last month, Accion Microfinance Bank (MfB) in Nigeria launched the People Living With Disabilities (PLWD) product to provide loans to a marginalized group that has largely been left out of the financial system – people with disabilities (PWD). To mark the occasion, some of the first clients of these loans including a member of the albino community and visually impaired clients attended an opening ceremony, which also included officials from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The PLWD launch was the result of close collaboration across organizations and continents. CFI’s Joshua Goldstein and Bunmi Lawson, Managing Director/CEO of Accion Microfinance Bank, met with officials from the Central Bank of Nigeria to garner their support. In addition, CFI’s PWD team in India, including CFI partner v-shesh, advised Accion Microfinance Bank.

At the launch, Bunmi Lawson stated that, “Many people living with disabilities are financially excluded. We are pleased to be able to give them the opportunity to improve their means of livelihood to give them a brighter future.”

I asked Emeka Uzowulu, Head of Business and Product Development at Accion Microfinance Bank in Nigeria to share how this product came about and what their future plans are for reaching PWD.

1. Congratulations on the launch of the PLWD product! Can you give a brief background on how this product came about? What was the history of developing this outreach to persons with disabilities and what was key to getting it off the ground?

At Accion Microfinance Bank, our mission is to economically empower micro-entrepreneurs and low income earners by providing financial services in a sustainable, ethical, and profitable manner. We realize that a sizable number of this group are living with one form of disability or another which limits or frustrates their efforts to be productive, as well as that of their families. In consideration of these challenges, we are committed to identifying and partnering with them in making their futures brighter by providing access to loans, savings, and insurance at a very minimal cost.

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> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research Director, Freedom from Hunger


First of all, a disclaimer. I am by no means a mental health expert. Like many, I’ve had my own experiences which have led to interests into the causes and impacts of mental health issues as well as the coping mechanisms we might use when we or someone we know suffers from a mental illness.

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, as you might know, and it has reminded me of a conversation that Josh Goldstein, Vice President of Economic Citizenship and Disability Inclusion at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion, and I started a while back — a conversation that also led to an exchange of ideas on his blog post “Four Interventions to Help Victims of Trauma Find Hope and Dignity” in which he summarized his remarks at the 8th Annual PCAF Pan-African Psychotrauma Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya. (Josh’s full conference remarks can be found here.) During this conference, Josh tried to answer the question of whether microfinance institutions (MFIs) can help victims of trauma who suffer from mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to find hope and dignity through self-employment.

In his post, Josh suggests steps to be taken by our sector to be inclusive of those suffering from mental health disorders. In this post, I’ll address two of those steps:

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> Posted by Debashis Sarker, Senior Manager, BRAC Microfinance Program, Bangladesh
Embed from Getty Images
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.

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> Posted by Siddhartha Chowdri, Program Manager, Disability Inclusion, India, CFI

While attending the recent Techshare disability inclusion conference in New Delhi I was invited to attend a “High-Level Meeting on Inclusive Financial Service.” This meeting aimed at starting an intensive national dialogue on the use of technology in making banks in India more accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs). This unique summit was organized by G3ICTthe Indian Banks’ Association (IBA)Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC), IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility division, and the Centre for Internet and Society in Mumbai.

Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Chairman of G3ICT, Mohan Tanksale, Chief Executive of IBA, Sam Taraporevala, Director of XRCVC

Through the course of the afternoon many dignitaries shared their views and strategies on financial inclusion for PWDs. Senior leaders of the IBA (Mr. Mohan Tanksale) and the Reserve Bank of India (Ms. Sadana Verma and Mr. KC Anand) discussed the advances in regulation that have made banking more accessible to the blind and were extremely passionate about making the case to all financial institutions in the country that there is a legitimate business case for using available technologies to become more accessible.

After hearing the perspective of the banks and regulators the discussion turned to the technology providers. Mr. Nagesh Nayak of NCR gave us all a great lesson on how not to be accessible. NCR had the mandate to develop talking ATMs to enable visually impaired persons to access their accounts. He showed us a video that let us understand how the first talking ATMs did not actually improve access. For example, the ATM would ask the blind user to choose an option but then not say the options out loud. Then Mr. P. Ramachandran who flew in from IBM’s research headquarters in Austin, Texas explained how IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility group is using technology to empower employees with various disabilities to make significant contributions to their business. If the likes of NCR and IBM can be so proactive in promoting accessibility and provide tools and case studies, then hopefully the financial service providers of the world will not be too far behind.

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> Posted by Pina D’Intino, Senior Manager, Scotiabank

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”

This post is the second in a series of two posts from Pina on financial inclusion for persons with disabilities. Pina’s first post can be found here.

A study by the Martin Prosperity Institute in Canada estimates the buying power influenced by persons with disabilities (PWDs) is in excess of $US 26 billion in Canada. The same market is estimated to exceed $1 trillion in the United States by 2021. It is clear that PWDs represent a significant market in North America, but I believe they hold similar if not equal potential around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 15 percent of the world’s population, over 1 billion people worldwide, live with a disability. This number is largely concentrated in developing economies, and is projected to increase considerably as the global population ages – a trend that has been highlighted in CFI’s demographic research. Engaging PWDs is essential when developing policies, standards, or products, or when selecting technologies for providing access to financial services. Otherwise, we risk excluding a population that can be viable consumers of financial products. Most importantly, culture needs to be shifted to embrace and recognize that PWDs have the ability to positively impact economic prosperity and that, along with the rest of society, must have equal access to education, employment, and financial independence.

How can financial services providers make a difference? It’s not rocket science. From including PWDs in the development of products and services, to the selection of technologies that are accessible to PWDs, financial services providers have a diversity of options for taking action and resources for understanding how to do so.

Engaging PWDs in Product Development

Financial services providers would not develop a product without getting input from their consumers. So why not include PWDs in the research conducted for product development or improvement? In Britain, Lloyds Banking Group convened a cross financial services sector focus group comprised of over 25 customer facing organizations and industry/regulatory bodies to discuss how to better respond to the needs of their customers suffering from dementia. After surveying caretakers and consumers, the consensus of the focus group, which included Business Disability Forum Partners: Allianz; Barclays; RBS; Santander; and Members: Aviva; HSBC; Legal and General; and Zurich, resulted in the creation of a charter on dementia-friendly financial services. This charter is intended to help financial services institutions recognize, understand, and respond to the needs of customers living with dementia and their caretakers and is an example of an institution that identified an obstacle in access by current and potential clients, conducted research within that client segment, and found a way to address it.

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> Posted by Fernando Botelho, Founder, F123 Consulting

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) may not be aware of tools and resources at their disposal that can make it easier for them to work with persons with disabilities (PWDs) as clients or staff. A new tool launched a few weeks ago attempts to close this gap, “Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Microfinance through Organizational Learning and the Strategic Use of Low-Cost Technologies.” This tool is part of the Framework for Disability Inclusion toolkit produced by CFI through work with Fundación Paraguaya and others.

Need help? (Braille translation)

Need help? (Braille translation)

The new tool provides concrete guidance for selecting appropriate technologies, forming partnerships with disability-related organizations, and incorporating disability inclusion throughout an organization. It was developed by myself and my organization, F123 Consulting, inspired by our work with the staff of Fundación Paraguaya, to make their organization more disability inclusive.

For example, free and open source assistive technologies can be used by organizations that have an interest in ensuring that operational and financial viability are maintained. In that regard, it’s important to take advantage of the many available low-cost, high performing technologies, and to adapt instead of replace existing processes whenever possible. Managers don’t have to roll their eyes and fret about cost. Small modifications to already existing systems can often make MFIs accessible to staff and clients with disabilities. And the best part is that some of these modifications are free!

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> Posted by Joshua Goldstein, Principal Director for Economic Citizenship & Disability Inclusion, CFI

Over the last two years, the Center for Financial Inclusion has worked to develop a series of tools and trainings (a how-to guide) for MFIs that have decided to become disability inclusive but don’t know how to do so.

Through our strategic partnership with Handicap International, Fundación Paraguaya, and the Smart Campaign, we have now completed a comprehensive toolkit. And today, we are pleased to announce that we are making these tools and trainings available to the industry in English, Spanish, and French on the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) page on the CFI website. Everything is open source and available to any MFI or other financial services provider that wishes to use the tools.

The Center made inclusion of PWD an institutional priority because at 15 percent of the global population, PWD represent a very large vulnerable minority, and are largely unbanked – no more than 0.5 percent of current MFI clients worldwide are PWD.

In its Responsible Treatment of Clients principle, the Smart Campaign emphasizes the importance of non-discrimination. As the Smart Campaign’s principles evolve, MFIs are encouraged to broaden their scope of services to minorities like PWD and promote equal opportunity to financial services.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) stipulates in Article 27 on Work and Employment that countries that have ratified the treaty must level the playing field so that persons with disabilities have an equal right to employment. The Center’s White Paper “A New Financial Access Frontier: People with Disabilities” made the case for disability inclusion, drawing on the approaches used around the world to guide implementation of the Convention. Now we present the industry with practical implementation guidelines for those institutions seeking to close the financial inclusion gap for persons with disabilities.

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> Posted by Center Staff

The FI2020 Global Forum in London gets underway this Sunday with a pre-Forum side meeting on financial inclusion for persons with disabilities (PWDs). This client-centric start feels like a fitting precursor for an event to expand financial inclusion.

Financial inclusion requires that financial services meet the unique needs of all clients, especially the needs of the most underserved and vulnerable client groups. Sessions throughout the Forum reflect this key tenet. In addition, there are side meetings on the Financial Capability Roadmap and the Consumer Protection Roadmap, focused on moving these roadmap principles and recommendations to action. These and the other three financial inclusion roadmaps were developed through a consultative process that collected and incorporated the perspectives of specific client groups.

Among Forum participants are representatives of various client segments – such as PWDs, women, the elderly, youth, rural populations, and migrants – to help raise awareness of their unique needs and assets. Here’s a collection of pertinent statistics for financial inclusion on these client segments:


  • 1.8 billion of the world’s population is between the ages of 10 and 24
  • 87 percent of youth are concentrated in the developing world
  • About half the world’s youth report being economically active
  • 38 percent of young adults have an account compared to over 54 percent of older adults

The Elderly:

  • In 1950, globally, 1 in 20 people were elderly. By 2050, it will be 1 in 5.
  • In 2000, only 6 percent of people in less developed countries were over 65 years old. By 2050, that number will grow to 20 percent.

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> Posted by Center Staff

The Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum is a few days away! Kicking off with side sessions this Sunday the 27th on persons with disabilities and the Microfinance CEO Working Group, the landmark event for expanding global financial inclusion is almost here.

Taking place on October 28-30 in London, the event will convene approximately 300 leaders in financial inclusion, spanning sectors and industries, in a collaborative environment where they can map the action agenda for achieving financial inclusion by the year 2020. Participants include key players from the financial sector, technology providers and the corporate sector, international non-profits, and public policymakers. For the full list of attendees, click here.

The Forum agenda includes an assortment of session types, with a number of opportunities for participant engagement. In one roundtable breakout session, participants will discuss how to take the Roadmap recommendations from ideas to action, identifying priorities for implementation. Other sessions include a Forum-opening discussion on factors that put financial inclusion by 2020 within reach, a plenary on mobile money and spurring innovation, a presentation on the forthcoming CFI report Opportunities & Obstacles in Peru, and a fireside chat and Q&A with Ajay Banga and Michael Schlein, CEO’s of MasterCard and Accion. For the full agenda, click here.

Along with Banga and Schlein, Forum speakers include Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, CEO of Access Bank, Nick Hughes, Founder of M-PESA and M-KOPA, Duvvuri Subbarao, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and Bindu Ananth, President of IMFR Trust. For the full speakers list, which includes a handful of newly confirmed speakers, click here.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

The following post is comprised of research from three Credit Suisse Virtual Volunteers, Vipin Gupta, Kajal Shah, and Jennifer Hughes. 

Most persons with disabilities (PWDs) don’t have an account at a formal financial institution. In India, 5 – 6 percent of the population (roughly 66 million) are estimated to have a disability, and three-quarters of Indian PWDs live in rural areas where access to banking services is limited. In India on the whole, about 35 percent of the adult population has a formal bank account. In Mexico, about 10 percent of households have at least one member with a disability, and about 27 percent of the country’s adult population has an account at a formal financial institution. These two countries present huge financial inclusion opportunities for PWDs. Encouragingly, significant PWD inclusion in-roads in both are underway.

In India, low financial inclusion incidence among PWDs is connected with poverty and unemployment. A meager 0.14 percent of PWDs in India hold regular jobs. This employment statistic stands in spite of efforts from the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) mandating that 3 percent of government jobs be reserved for PWDs, and incentivizing private employers to ensure that at least 5 percent of their workforce is comprised of PWDs. The same low fulfillment of positions reserved for PWDs has been seen in several of the government’s rural employment schemes. In a study examining labor-intensive agricultural occupations in India, it was found that the majority of PWDs were not chosen by potential employers, and that PWDs in rural areas mostly depend on non-agriculture-based-self-employment as a means of livelihood. For these individuals and others pursuing self-employment, a lack of adequate capital can be a critical roadblock to earning a livelihood.

There are a multitude of factors contributing to this situation, including low education (only half of Indian PWDs have any formal education), inability to afford health treatments, un-inclusive employment settings, un-inclusive surroundings, prejudice against PWDs, lack of awareness of support programs and other resources, and geographic remoteness to banking, education, employment, training, and rehabilitation facilities. Nearly any of these factors are enough to pose large, or in some cases insurmountable, challenges to accessing formal financial services. When combined, the task of accessing traditional avenues of financing can be overwhelming. For many PWDs, the only viable source of financing is money from friends and family, but in lower-income rural areas even that is difficult to come by.

Other challenges that stand in the way of greater inclusion of PWDs in India include lack of a standardized method for defining and evaluating disability, and lack of up-to-date data.

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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.