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Chicago, IL 60607

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© 2020 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit. EIN: 540907624.

Women's Economic Empowerment

Through targeted financial services, training, and support, Opportunity International creates opportunities for women to become powerful economic agents in their families and communities.

For far too long, women and girls have been held back from reaching their full potential. Legal, social, cultural, and economic inequalities disproportionately exclude women from full and equal participation in their communities and economies, leaving their voices unheard and their potential unreached.

In their daily lives, women and girls must navigate complex webs of mistaken perceptions, including stigmas around educating girls, biases against women-led businesses or female employees, and assumptions that women are riskier investments than their male counterparts.

But when women are equipped with resources and opportunities, everyone benefits.

  • Women could add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025 if there were significant gains toward achieving equal access to financial resources.
  • Female farmers, with equal access to financial and agricultural resources, could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 150 million.
  • Female income-earners are more likely to allocate significantly more resources to food, health, education, and children's wellbeing, ending the generational cycle of poverty for millions.
Yakuba Fati, Ghana (Photographer: Kate Holt)
Yakuba Fati, Ghana (Photographer: Kate Holt)

Opportunity International's Response

Access to Financial Services

  • Opportunity International develops tailored financial services appropriate and accessible for marginalized women, such as Trust Group loans that leverage social groups in lieu of collateral and biometric tools like fingerprint or iris scanners that enable women to access accounts without formal identification.
  • Opportunity equips partner financial institutions with gender awareness trainings and workshops to help them shift their business practices to better serve marginalized female clients and accommodate their needs.
  • One of the most important shifts is expanding mobile banking services to allow women to conveniently manage their accounts from their phone.
  • Opportunity also helps financial institutions build and expand agent banker networks, which allow rural women to make cash deposits or withdrawals with a trusted local shop owner instead of traveling to the nearest branch.

Literacy, Business, and Livelihood Skills

  • For microbusiness owners, Opportunity helps women learn how to budget, invest loans, and create a financial plan for sustainable growth.
  • For farmers, Opportunity engages women, often for the first time, to teach them technical skills like how and when to plant seed, apply fertilizer, or set up an irrigation system.
  • In addition to productive skills, Opportunity also provides training in livelihood skills, such as health and wellness, leadership, and fostering strong relationships.
  • For girls, Opportunity is working to expand access to quality schools in their local communities. With access to loans and training, school owners are investing in better infrastructure, qualified teachers, and more classrooms and boarding facilities—ensuring they can serve more students, especially girls who would otherwise have to walk far distances or drop out.

Access to Networks and Productive Resources

  • Opportunity helps women form or join local support groups, like Savings and Loans Groups, Trust Groups, or farmer cooperatives, all of which offer women a local network of encouraging peers to learn from and work with.
  • Through these groups, women are often able to find their voice and agency and collectively integrate into local markets and economies. For example, a group of farmers has much more power in negotiating seed costs with a local supplier than would one woman on her own.
  • Through these groups, Opportunity reaches more women with support services at a lower cost.
Surekha (Center) and her daughters, India
Surekha (Center) and her daughters, India

Women’s Empowerment in Action

In India, an impact study found that 89% of women who used a loan for their microbusiness reported up to a 66% increase in their income. And 98% of women reported increased well-being.

81% of female farmers in Ghana and Mozambique reported increased decision-making power, and 58% reported increasing their income as a result of Opportunity's Agriculture Finance services.

In Uganda, girls' absenteeism from school reduced when parents had access to Opportunity's School Fee loans to cover educational expenses.

In Ghana, a pilot program testing interactive voice response messages on mobile phones increased savings behavior and engagement nearly twice as effectively among women than men.

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