Access Approved

“When we go to the bank to ask for a loan, we’re denied because we have no collateral.”

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Do you think twice about having a bank account? Have you had a business loan or maybe a mortgage?

For millions of women around the globe this can seem impossible. Like Yeo from Ivory Coast, who couldn’t take out a loan for her farming business because, as a woman, she didn’t own any land that the bank required as collateral.

CARE is responding to this injustice by launching its ‘Access Approved’ campaign. We are calling on the financial sector to develop products and services that are specifically designed to meet the needs of women.

We know that a lack of access to finance is one of the major barriers facing women entrepreneurs in marginalised communities across the world. The women entrepreneurs we work with every day tell us, and so do the statistics. 80 per cent of women-owned businesses with credit needs are either unserved or underserved. This is equivalent to a massive $1.7 trillion financing gap.

Better serving women is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. We know that women are a high value investment. Evidence shows that women are stronger savers than men, more responsible borrowers and calculated risk-takers. We also know that giving women better access to finance could unlock $330 billion in annual global revenue. The business case is clear.

Men dominate the financial sector and traditionally, financial products and services have been designed by and for men. Women continually feel exasperated by the way financial companies serve them, citing disrespect, poor advice, contradictory policies, and seemingly endless red tape and one-size-fits-all forms. Women have different demands than men, for example they want more detailed information, timesaving access to services, easy to navigate websites and easier access to staff and peers. 

By working with women on how to collectively save money, develop their business skills and facilitating access to affordable loans, CARE has seen an astounding uplift in success rates. In Ethiopia, CARE has recently supported 5,000 women entrepreneurs in this way, resulting in an increase in their income of 500%. At the start or the project 70% of the women had no savings and by the end, this had reduced to 3.6%. Through CARE’s partnership with a microfinance provider, many of the Ethiopian women were also able to access low-interest loans, which they are now successfully repaying. 

Saving is a vital foundation for economic independence and CARE’s global flagship Village Savings & Loans Associations have directly supported nearly 7 million members across 45 countries over the past 25+ years.  These VSLAs have created pathways for nearly 1 million members to open their first bank account.

Through the Access Approved campaign, women from Sri Lanka, Ivory Coast, Jordan and Peru share their stories on film for the first time, telling the banks what they think is needed to open up access to finance for women. These new films aim to bring the real issues to the fore, providing clear and personal recommendations to the financial sector:

  • Martha from Peru says “It’s important for banks to create more services for women.” You can watch Martha's film here
  • Bara’a from Jordan says “If there were more women to decide on who gets a loan, things would be different.” You can watch Bara’a’s film here.
  • Jeanne from Ivory Coast says: “If banks would not focus on collateral or guarantees, and take a chance on women, we would emerge.” You can watch Jeanne and Yeo’s film here.
  • Sarojini from Sri Lanka says: “It’s better when women are working at a bank. They understand us better.” You can watch Sarojini’s film here.

All these women participate in CARE’s Women in Enterprise Programme, supported by H&M Foundation, which has reached 133,000 women entrepreneurs globally since 2014. The programme shows that when women learn how to manage savings and have access to the right business skills training, they can successfully build their own enterprises. 

Investing in women entrepreneurs is a triple opportunity: there is a business case for financial institutions; it improves the enterprises and lives of women; and the domino effect of equality will be felt in their communities and beyond. This is an untapped market for financial institutions and CARE wants to work with them to make it work for everyone.

Fighting for Equality

“Gender equality should be at the heart of our programming. And that doesn’t just mean empowering women, it also means engaging men.” Misrach Mekonnen from CARE Ethiopia passionately promoted gender equality at a recent event in London, UK

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