January 13, 2010
By Kate Griffin, Director, Grameen Foundation's Solutions for the Poorest
There is a common misconception that poor people, especially the very poorest, can’t save – that they simply don’t have enough money to do so. Yet, every day, these people are proving us wrong. They are putting tiny amounts of additional income away – hiding it in their homes, giving it to a neighbor to safekeep, taking part in informal savings clubs that pay out in an established intervals, or buying livestock or jewelry.
They know that in order to meet daily needs, or in order to withstand an illness, pay for school fees, and have enough money to buy fertilize for their crops, they will need these sums of money set aside. But these forms are often unreliable – theft can occur, or the neighbor can walk away with your money. When you need it most, the price of livestock may also be at its lowest. In order for these poor households to get the most out of their ability to save, they need safe, secure places to save that are conveniently located near their homes.
Today, we are announcing an ambitious Microsavings Initiative, where we will work with three outstanding microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Ethiopia, India, and the Philippines to expand their savings services to 1.45 million poor and very poor households. We want to ensure that anyone – no matter their income level – has a place to save their small sums of money safely and securely, and to call on them whenever the need arises.
The project is part of our newly launched Solutions for the Poorest (SfP) group, which is working to ensure that the poorest people have access to financial services and to more reliable business opportunities that help address the vulnerability and volatility of their lives. We recognize the complicated financial management these households have to juggle and look forward to continuing to find innovative ways to serve them in the future. Watch this space as we continue to share our stories from this program.
Kate Druschel Griffin is a microfinance professional with regional experience in Asia. She currently leads Grameen Foundation Solutions for the Poorest program, which is focused on reaching the world’s poorest people with access to reliable business opportunities and financial management tools. She has also overseen programs in the Philippines, East Timor, and Indonesia, and led GF’s strategic expansion into China. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and is a board member of Women Advancing Microfinance International. Previously, Kate focused on microfinance policy and poverty measurement tools at the IRIS Center at the University of Maryland. A Mandarin Chinese speaker, Kate holds an MA in International Development from American University and a BA from Kenyon College.