Shannon Maynard, Vice President, Chief Talent and Knowledge Officer, Grameen Foundation On this International Women’s Day, I find myself struggling to celebrate the progress that women have made in all facets of society, while acknowledging that more than 3 billion people in the world – the majority of them women – still live on less than the cost of my morning cup of coffee. This sobering fact puts into perspective the Marissa Mayer debate on the problems of privilege that I face as a working mother. Flexible work schedules, telecommuting, affordable child care – how about a livelihood, access to a phone, and prenatal health care? To bring greater awareness to the magnitude of global poverty and the daily struggles that a vast majority of women in the world face, I am taking the $2.50 Challenge along with a growing number of donors, volunteers, and supporters of Grameen Foundation. Together, we organized online campaigns to encourage our friends to try to live on $2.50 today, or to donate money toward Grameen Foundation’s work to put the same kind of financial and information services that you and I often take for granted into the hands of these poor women. For many, it’s surprising that the world’s poorest women make far more financial decisions each day than you or I do. Kenyan Charity Kulola and her seven daughters found themselves homeless after Charity’s husband kicked her out for bearing him no sons. Taken in by her brother, Charity was introduced to Yehu Microfinance Trust and opened a coconut stall with a loan of just $64. With her income, she can now send all seven of her daughters to school. Imagine being Charity – not having reliable income, facing significant financial shocks caused by poor health without a support structure, and having no access to information on where you might find some help or assistance. What kind of hope is possible for a better future when you are investing all your energy into just making it through the day? Grameen Foundation, working with a diverse set of strategic partners – from large multinational corporations and government agencies to local social enterprises – is committed to connecting millions of women like Charity to their potential by leveraging their underappreciated strengths and giving them the tools they need, in a business like way. In other words, Charity is not the beneficiary of charity but a customer who now has opportunities and tools to choose from. And with that choice comes a sense of control over her life’s circumstances and hope – hope for herself and a better future for her daughters. So, on this International Women’s Day, I will raise awareness of the differences in my life circumstances and millions of women like Charity as well as our similarities – our shared hope that our daughters will grow up in a world where they have access to more opportunities than we ourselves have been given.
Grameen Foundation Insights
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At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.
On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.
By Sean Paavo Krepp, Uganda Country Director Last week the mobile and internet world converged on Barcelona for its own Oscars: the Global Mobile Awards. Hosted annually by the GSMA – the umbrella organization for mobile operators worldwide – it’s the place to preview all the new apps, services and devices coming on the market. I had the honor of participating as a judge for the mWomen Best Mobile Product or Service for Women in Emerging Markets award. The GSMA introduced the award in 2012 to address the staggering gender gap in mobile phone use (PDF), especially for rural poor women. The mobile industry responded with a growing number of new services – tapping a business opportunity the GSMA estimates to be about $13 billion. As Bill Gates rightly points out in his Annual Letter: “setting clear goals and finding measures that will mark progress toward them can improve the human condition.” And the mWomen Initiative at the GSMA has done exactly this to measure and draw the industry’s attention to the barriers to uptake as well as recognize trailblazers.
Women play a fundamental role in poor households. They are often the largest contributors to farm production and food security, and they often act as the custodians of healthcare, education and financial planning in the family. So reaching them with vital information and financial services can be a key catalyst in alleviating and reducing poverty. In our 10 years of product and service user-centered design work with the rural poor, Grameen Foundation has identified some key barriers to uptake. There are three important barriers that guided my votes for this year’s mWomen nominees.
The most striking observation pertains to power relations in the household. In rural households, men often control the assets in the home and do not welcome mobile phone usage. In fact, 74 % of 2500 women surveyed by the GSMA in four developing countries found that women did not own a phone because their husbands would not allow it. Furthermore, 82% of married women who did own a phone said it made their husbands suspicious. The key learning is that a segmentation strategy needs to address both men and women when discussing mobile uptake. In our work with PT Ruma and Qualcomm in Indonesia we made it mandatory for men to sign the micro-franchise agreement and encouraged cross gender dialogue on the benefits of starting a Ruma business.
Confidence and skill
Many women also lack self-confidence and, in many cases, they also lack the literacy and numeracy skills needed to operate a phone. Those that own phones often use only voice with little use of SMS and almost no usage of smartphone services. We have found that using intermediaries - whether mobile enabled MFIs, mobile health workers or Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs) - helps to overcome these barriers to access. Technology alone is not enough and having an early adopter or role model train others and contextualize products or services can form an important bridge to the rural household. It is also important for operators to design marketing campaigns and collateral that focus not only on what they are offering but also how it works. Educating the market needs to be balanced with building awareness in this emerging segment. A recent Grameen Foundation case study on a collaboration to reach women savers over the mobile phone through Cashpor, found that – especially with sensitive financial services delivered over the phone – a microfinance institution can play an important role in helping women overcome barriers to access. Interestingly, it noted that the children in the households were earlier adopters of the technology and could support women as they learn to use new products and services. Furthermore, we have found that the best recruiters of women are themselves women. It builds confidence when women see a community leader – someone like me – become a role model. PT Ruma recruits only women, our MOTECH work in Ghana focuses on midwives and our CKW program has built a strong gender strategy to encourage women micro-entrepreneurs to take up our micro-franchise business in a box.
Finally, the affordability, relevance and ease of use of products and services are key drivers for uptake. Sometimes counter-intuitive gender differences exist, making research and user-centered design absolutely important. For example, I recently participated in a user-centered design co-creation workshop for a mobile commitment savings product in Uganda. When men and women were asked about the service both were very sensitive to price and concerned about the fees. But, when it came to liquidity, women wanted greater access to their savings and fewer penalties for early withdrawal. When we probed further, the men said it was hard to hold on to money especially on weekends, while women said they often needed fast access to cash when their family or children fell sick.
And the winner is….
This year’s award went to Asiacell for its Almas Line, which provides mobile services to women in Iraq. It used consumer insights data to design a suite of services tailored to the women’s needs. Of note was a free service that allows women to block calls or texts from potential harassers. The most compelling aspect of the Asiacell service was a television campaign that targeted women but also spoke to men by portraying the services as linked to deep traditional values. Asiacell’s women subscribers grew to 3.5 million within 16 months – just as many female customers as it had in its first 11 years of operations. This clearly demonstrates that consumer insights, a solid offering focused on women, and creative excellence can help drive usage of mobile services. I was honored to be a judge at the GSMA Awards and to serve on the esteemed GSMA mWomen Panel. The GSMA has done an excellent job in highlighting the needs of the poor, especially women, and has shown the business benefits of bridging the gender gap, as well as the strong potential for social impact of the use of mobiles among women.
Originally posted on our AppLab Blog. Fredrick Ndiwalana is Relationship Manager, Applab Money Accelerator, and Ali Ndiwalana is Research Lead, AppLab Money Incubator, at Grameen Foundation Uganda.
There is consensus that the poor (those living on less than $2.50 per day) need the same kind of financial services as their more affluent counterparts, albeit in smaller affordable units. What is not clear – especially in markets where formal financial exclusion is high and innovation is low – is whether financial institutions can design pro-poor financial products. After all, this is an area where they have not done so well for the so-called rich, despite years of experience. East Africa is such a market. In Uganda, where Grameen Foundation’s Applab Money Accelerator is located, financial institutions continue to offer savings products for which the interest earned by the customer is much lower than the rate of inflation. This is something that the average ”financially included” savings account holder has become accustomed to, and financial institutions have always found a reasonable way to justify it such as a low bank rate as well as high operational costs. Though such explanations may be acceptable to the economically schooled, they seem to defy logic when it comes to explaining them to the less schooled. Read the full post at our AppLab Blog
Originally posted at Next Billion. Leo Tobias is a Technology Program Manager at Grameen Foundation. Financial inclusiveness is a core tenet of our work at Grameen Foundation. Utilizing mobile phones for financial services has gained a lot of traction as a sustainable and scalable solution to serve the 2.5 billion people who do not have access to formal banking services. But does this solution really enable us to reach all of these people? As part of a pilot program to implement mobile money at one of our partner organizations, a survey was conducted to gather basic knowledge about people's access to mobile phones and their usage of mobile money and other financial services. While 98 percent of members interviewed have access to a mobile phone, only 78 percent owned their own mobile phones. So what's the problem? A previous study conducted by Grameen Foundation at Cashpor, a microfinance institution (MFI) in India, revealed there are significant access, convenience and security issues associated with customers not having their own handset or the knowledge to operate the technology themselves... To read this full post, visit Next Billion. To learn more about this project, please see our Project FAQ.
By Christopher Tan, Chief Executive Officer, Asia Region, Grameen Foundation Christopher (“Happy”) Tan is Grameen Foundation’s CEO for the Asia Region, where he is responsible for defining and executing the organization’s regional long-term strategy and overseeing its various investments and programs there. A native of the Philippines, he has almost 15 years of experience in development finance, nonprofit management and public interest law, having worked for ShoreBank Advisory Services (SAS), the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC/Chicago) and SALIGAN in the Philippines. He holds an MPP from The University of Chicago and a JD from the Ateneo de Manila University. I am delighted to announce that Grameen Foundation’s Mobile Microfranchising and AppLab initiatives in Indonesia were recognized at the 2012 Citizens Awards, sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) and held on December 6 in Washington, D.C. Our project partner, Qualcomm – through its Wireless Reach initiative ™ – received the “Best International Ambassador” award for its collaborations with Grameen Foundation and our local partner, the social enterprise Ruma, on these projects. The award identifies a successful social, community or environmental initiative that positively impacts one or more developing countries. Through our project with Wireless Reach and Ruma, we have enabled poor entrepreneurs, most of whom are women, in Indonesia to offer a range of mobile phone-based services to people in their communities. This effort provides a profitable business opportunity to those living below the poverty line while giving communities access to information and services that can increase their income and improve their lives. Grameen Foundation and Qualcomm believe that mobiles phones play a critical role in alleviating poverty. This recognition from BCLC highlights the growing support for that vision.
Our experience in Indonesia, a vast country of more than 16,000 islands and 234 million people, is providing important insights about the benefits of mobile connectivity. With approximately 75 percent of the population living below $2.50 per day, the lack of affordable access to telecommunications remains a problem, which places a large percentage of Indonesians in rural areas at an economic and social disadvantage. However, the availability of affordable mobile phones and a rapidly growing 3G network is enabling rural communities, through our AppLab project, to access high-value social applications via mobile phones to close information gaps and reduce market inefficiencies.
As of November 2012, more than 15,000 Ruma entrepreneurs have served more than 1.5 million unique customers. More than 82 percent of the businesses are owned by women and 100 percent of Ruma entrepreneurs are profitable. We have also found that, on average, the entrepreneurs increased their income by $1.10/day, which is a substantial increase in their livelihood (63% of the portfolio lives on less than $2.50/day). These results have been more than encouraging. We have seen a steady increase in overall living conditions for micro-entrepreneurs such as Ibu Nur Zanah, who operates a home-based business that sells used clothes, while her husband sells soup on the street. Their household lives on approximately $2.00 per day, which barely provides for their two children, aged seven years and 15 months. As a Ruma Entrepreneur, Ibu increased her household income by 100%, earning an additional $2.00 per day, moving her family above the poverty line. The ultimate goal for the Mobile Microfranchising and AppLab projects is to empower more entrepreneurs like Ibu Nur Zanah. We are honored that our program has been recognized by BCLC, and proud to be working with Qualcomm and Ruma on projects that demonstrate the significant impact that mobile technology provides for people who were previously technologically isolated. We look forward to expanding these projects to further help, encourage and move more people and communities above the poverty line.