Much of the conversation around reaching the rural poor with financial services has been related to the promise of mobile phones to overcome geographic challenges or access to the supply chain to increase production. However, discussion of whether rural families have access to a loan or savings account that meets their needs is a fundamental place to start before considering other innovations. At Women’s World Banking we know that serving rural women is important for rural families and viable for financial institutions. It will, however, take much more than replicating a loan or savings product that has been successful in an urban setting.
Women’s World Banking, in partnership with Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ); Credit Suisse; Hivos; the Multilateral Investment Fund, member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group; and Irish Aid, began a project in 2011 to develop financial products for women in Latin America with the goal of reaching 24,000 new clients by the end of 2014. We partnered with three institutions that also see rural women as an opportunity in an untapped market segment: Interfisa Financiera (Paraguay), Caja Arequipa (Peru), and Fundación delamujer (Colombia). While all of these institutions have experience offering loans to entrepreneurs two had developed that expertise among an urban clientele and the third with larger agriculture clients.
As of July 2014, more than 68,000 clients have accessed anew loan product, 46 percent of them women. Together the three institutions have dispersed more than US $22 million to women to sustain or grow their businesses.
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