According to the World Bank an estimated 2 billion working-age-adults do not have an account at a financial institution.
A worldwide event, FI2020 week involved over 25 partners who each organised conversations on how to make significant steps to advance financial inclusion. The range of participants included banks, policy makers, NGOs, microfinance institutions, investors, and financial capability experts.
The only partner from Bangladesh, BRAC seized the opportunity by launching a nation-wide dialogue with local government leaders on how microfinance is contributing to alleviating poverty in the country. Across the 64 districts of Bangladesh, deputy commissioners- representatives of local government- were invited to visit BRAC’s microfinance operations. They gained better appreciation of how microfinance empowers the poor, especially women, and how the provision of financial services serve as cross-cutting tools that complement the government’s work towards the sustainable development goals.
The nation-wide engagement with local government is hoped to nurture the supportive environment that government has enabled for microfinance institutions to function. During his visit, the deputy commissioner of Chittagong Mesbah Uddin said, “Customised financial services reach out to those who remain unbanked. Besides providing economic opportunities, BRAC’s microfinance addresses gender inequality, legal and human rights and financial education.”
During FI2020 week, BRAC also organised a debate among its staff on how microfinance fits into BRAC’s broader model of development. The main purpose of the discussion was to share insights into how financial services help the poor to cope with poverty, and ways in which BRAC could continue to improve its microfinance model in its mission to alleviate poverty.
Executive director of BRAC, Dr Muhammad Musa, who moderated the debate, observed, “As an organisation, when we work towards eradicating extreme poverty and helping individuals realise their potential, we need precise tools like microfinance to offer a more complete package of services to our clients. In a changing world we need to adjust, re-adjust, sharpen and strengthen microfinance so that it impacts a wider group of people.”
BRAC is a leading provider of financial services for the poor in seven countries including Bangladesh, Tanzania, Liberia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Myanmar and Pakistan. Its ‘credit-plus’ approach addresses the specific needs of the various target populations such as rural women, adolescents, landless poor, marginal farmers, migrant workers, urban poor and small entrepreneurs. As it expands its microfinance programme BRAC’s strategy of financial inclusion serves to complement its other programmes such as health and education, while keeping client protection at its centre. Access to financial services is a core element of BRAC’s holistic approach to development, helping households to save, consume, and work with convenience and dignity.