Friday, December 17, 2010

Savings as Safety Nets

One of Goal's "New Year's Resolutions" for 2011 is to beef up the economic empowerment aspect of our programme. We have a lot of ideas on how to do this and will be using the year to research and conduct some pilots that give girls more than the tools they need to succeed - but the opportunities (and resources!) as well.

It's well-known that when women and girls have access to their own money, it creates a knock-on effect that ripples through their families and communities. So when we got this lovely note from Mary Ellen (a personal role model!) at Women's World Banking, one of the top organisations working in this space, we thought we should share it with you. And, as a bonus, Kashf Bank is a client of Standard Chartered. We're proud to help them support women like Syma.

SAVINGS: Creating Safety Nets for the Poor

December 2010

Dear Friends:

Lahore, Pakistan, is a city where even minor aspects of daily life create challenges for many people. Electricity is scarce, and the cost of sugar has doubled in the past year. For low-income women like Syma, it can be difficult to scrape together enough money to keep food on the table, much less save for upcoming expenses such as school fees or weddings.

Until recently, Syma’s only option to save money was to keep it in her home – where it was all too easy to spend – or with a neighbor, which meant a lack of privacy. In May 2010, with the support of Women’s World Banking, Kashf Microfinance Bank opened a savings kiosk in Syma’s neighborhood. The kiosk offers women like Syma a safe, convenient, and confidential place to save. Literacy rates are very low in Syma’s community, so account materials are picture-based to make it easy for Syma and her neighbors to understand how the account works.

Syma has been saving at the Kashf kiosk since May. “I’d like to continue this account for as long as I live,” she says. “At home you can’t save but once you deposit money here you can be assured it’s not going anywhere. I feel more financially independent and worry less about the future.”
Syma’s story is a powerful example of the efforts Women’s World Banking is making to build stronger microfinance institutions, expand products offerings beyond credit, and continue client research to better understand the needs of the poor women. I hope that Syma’s story will encourage you to join me in this endeavor by supporting our work today.

Illiteracy can be a major hurdle to financial education about the need for savings. WWB worked with Pakistan’s Kashf Microfinance Bank to introduced illustrated brochures so that even if a woman can’t read she can still manage a savings account.

WWB believes that the need for formal savings options is crucial: without them the poor are forced to keep cash at home or in informal savings groups which are risky and money can be lost. Our research shows that the poor save, generally in small amounts, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of their monthly income. Access to reliable savings products can help the poor reduce their vulnerability to major budget shocks, invest in the education of their children, and build assets that will see them through old age. Because women tend to shoulder the burden of saving in most poor households, a well-designed savings product can have significant empowerment benefits for women.

To motivate customers to save in the bank, Kashf launched a commitment savings account allowing customers to save for a particular goal, such as their children’s education and marriage and emergencies. In a time when we are all too familiar with the importance and necessity of having a savings safety net, I ask you to please give generously to help improve the lives of low-income women and their families.

Warm regards,

Mary Ellen Iskenderian

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