A Plan to Empower More Than One Million Women

Monday, March 9, 2015

There is a story that persists around the developing world, to the detriment of families and entire economies: Women are being sidelined from economic progress because of limited access to financial services.

Savings accounts. Loans. A mobile wallet. Insurance. These aren’t just tools for transactions, they are platforms for financial independence. Collectively, they can help advance gender equality and economic mobility. Women are so often the ones who manage all sorts of family finances, from the household bills to saving for their children’s education, to funding working capital for micro- and family businesses and farms. But financial services, often reserved for men or the wealthy, provide options and the opportunity to better plan.

International Women’s Day is an important time to consider solutions to empower women financially. For Citi and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), that solution has come in the form of an innovative partnership designed to provide microfinance loans in some of the world’s poorest places. As the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, OPIC has extensive experience supporting development in emerging markets. Citi has a strong global presence. Through their risk sharing program, Citi provides funding for microfinance lending in local currency — which is key to ensuring borrowers will be able to repay — while OPIC shares the risk.

So far, Citi and OPIC have provided about $386 million in loans to more than 40 microfinance institutions in more than 20 countries. More than one million women have benefitted.

For example, in India, Citi has a $5 million loan facility, partially guaranteed by OPIC, with Ujjivan, a microfinance institution which provides microloans to India’s female urban micro-entrepreneurs, as well as ongoing guidance and support to expand the financial capabilities of its clients.

Shubhangi Dhobale, an entrepreneur in the city of Pune, is one client who has built a paper goods business with her husband and now employs additional women from their neighborhood. Amirum Begum is another client. She took out an Individual Agriculture Loan to farm a plot of land and earn money from selling its produce on the market.

Source: The Huffington Post (link opens in a new window)