NextThought Monday: Want to end poverty? Bring financial education and empowerment to the youth, says Jeroo Billimoria
Until recently, the financial industry tended to dismiss the thought of young people as necessary customers needing financial products, education and employment. In some regions around the world it is even considered taboo to speak about finances and young people in the same breath. Many still feel that youth should be protected, that they do not need to learn about finance until later in life. I’ve heard these arguments, but my work throughout the years runs contrary to them.
Childline India is where I first began to see the importance of empowerment, financial inclusion and education to young people. I started the service in Mumbai in 1996, attempting to give street children quick, free access to police assistance, health care and other support through a 24-hour emergency telephone service (it has since gone nationwide, and has reached over 3 million children). The experience taught me that to eradicate poverty, we have to ensure that every child believes in himself/herself, knows about money, saves in a bank and has the choice to decide on the right career path.
With this in mind I moved towards creating a curriculum that could be implemented at various age levels and which would guide Economic Citizenship Education (ECE). ECE aims to address gaps in early childhood education, youth skills development and livelihoods competencies, which align with UNESCO’s Education for All Campaign and the financial literacy framework at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment. This began through my work as Founding Director of Aflatoun, promoting social and financial education through a global network active in over 100 countries. It has continued in my work at Child and Youth Finance International (CYFI), where I am currently the Managing Director.
Here we seek solutions in the fight to eradicate poverty, primarily through financial education and financial inclusion. At CYFI, the ECE learning framework guides our advocacy with policy makers and practitioners. It combines three modules of financial education, social education, and livelihoods education for children and youth, and clearly defines the concepts and terms which are at the core of financial literacy. By engaging youth and preparing them for active engagement in their own financial decisions, we are allowing them to have the knowledge and skills to determine their own future. Our work with young people strongly affirms that it all starts at the beginning: the formative stages of an adolescent’s life make the lasting impact necessary to drive global change.
(Left: Jeroo Billimoria)
This week’s CYFI Regional Meeting for Europe & Central Asia, hosted at the European Central Bank, will bring together central bankers, government ministers, financial institutions, multilateral institutions, NGOs and academics to take on the challenge of increasing economic citizenship and improving financial access for children and youth. At the meeting, youth will have the opportunity to directly share their views with leading European policymakers, actively participate in discussions on financial education, and raise their concerns regarding youth unemployment.
I believe that it is crucial to financially educate and empower young people to secure long-term poverty reduction. Today’s investments in providing financial education, developing entrepreneurship skills, and ensuring access to appropriate financial products and services will empower youth to maximize their full potential. Economic Citizenship is the foundation upon which we can create adults who make smart financial decisions and make a difference in their communities.
Jeroo Billimoria is managing director at Child and Youth Finance International, a global movement of international stakeholders dedicated to facilitating financial inclusion for all children and youth.