FROM 4 TO 10 February this year, Global Affairs Canada, in addition to individuals and organizations across the country, took part in International Development Week (IDW), which celebrates Canadian contributions to the reduction of poverty and international humanitarian assistance in the developing world. But it’s also an education event––a chance to teach as many people as possible, both in Canada and elsewhere, about the importance of these efforts.
This is a uniquely Canadian tradition, but one that aligns with the goals and supports the efforts of organizations like FINCA and its sister arm, FINCA Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarks, about our collective ‘power to build a more just, equal, inclusive and prosperous world’ and on the importance of empowering women and girls, echo our own.
Poverty disproportionately affects women and girls, and yet it’s been proven time after time that increasing the incomes of poor mothers leads to an almost immediate improvement in the diet of their children and in the likelihood those children can go to school. When a child is educated, he or she has infinitely better opportunities to lead a life out of poverty. FINCA understands the ‘multiplier effect’ that comes about when women are given access to capital. Women use those funds in ways that serve both their families and their communities. Take Mama Kapu, a small business owner who bought land and built a small restaurant after FINCA gave her a loan. The loan, in her words, made her self-reliant. She helped other women to get jobs: after her loan, she hired four new members of staff. Her neighbor’s grandchild, whose mother was just 14 and unable to care for her, found a new home among the women working at the restaurant.
A study conducted by the International Finance Corporation supports the idea that money given to women has far-reaching positive benefits. The IFC found that FINCA’s female banking agents in the Democratic Republic of Congo made more profit on average than their male counterparts. But around the world, the majority of the world’s 2 billion unbanked individuals are female; despite holding multiple roles in society––as consumers and business owners, as mothers and caretakers––there is rampant income inequality between men and women. And this is partly why our focus is on identifying and supporting women in those countries where women have not historically been empowered to succeed, such as Pakistan, Haiti and the DR Congo.
Canada’s International Development Week might have come to an end for another year, let’s celebrate the work we’ve done to lift individuals––women in particular––out of poverty, but equally, let’s not forget that much of our work is still ahead of us.