CYFI’s founder recognized as Top Influential Woman

Child & Youth Finance International are delighted to announce that their founder and Managing Director, Jeroo Billimoria, has ranked 3rd in the charity and non-profit category of Opzij’s Top 100 Influential Women!

Working to support children and youth where they need it most, Jeroo has founded 3 pioneering NGOs; Child Helpline International, Aflatoun, and Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI). Within her role as Managing Director of CYFI, Jeroo and her Team lead the Child and Youth Finance Movement – a global network dedicated to promoting the financial education and inclusion of children and youth, and creating the systemic change necessary to achieve the economic empowerment of young people worldwide.

Influencing the Economic Empowerment of Youth

Jeroo's work in devising long-term solutions to poverty and her commitment to ensuring financial literacy amongst children and youth has cemented her reputation as an innovative social entrepreneur, both in the Netherlands and internationally.

CYFI’s partner organizations were also represented on this year’s list from Opzij - Sigrid van Aker, Chairman of the Board for the Goede Doelen Loterijen and board member for Novamedia, and APG’s Angelien Kemna, one of CYFI’s Supervisory Board members.

Opzij’s inclusion of several stakeholders from the Child and Youth Finance Movement on their Top 100 list presents an exciting moment for the economic empowerment of young people, and the opportunity to create systemic change to break enduring cycles of poverty for good.

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CYFI Partner launches 'Borrow Wisely Campaign 2015'

CYFI partner, Microfinance Centre, is teaming up with 24 financial institutions to launch the second annual international Borrow Wisely Campaign. Over the next 30 days, field staff across 15 countries in Europe and Central Asia will educate thousands of existing and potential microfinance clients on how take on safe and responsible levels of debt. Why is the Campaign important?

In many countries, the microfinance sector has earned a negative reputation, caused by broader industry crises or the irresponsible behavior of a few market players. Now more than ever, we need to demonstrate that the industry is able to lend responsibly, transparently and protect against client over-indebtedness in line with international standards. But it’s not just institutional responsibility that matters: the other important half of the “client protection equation” is responsible borrowing – that is, making sure that clients know how to use debt safely.

Last year’s Campaign proved to be a great tool for reaching massive numbers of clients with targeted financial education messages – in fact it exceeded our outreach targets. Given this popular interest, we’ve decided to build on our success and make the Borrow Wisely Campaign an annual event.

How we are going to do it?

Field staff in partner institutions will directly engage with clients around key messages to help them understand how to borrow responsibly. Staff will head out into the field equipped with posters, leaflets and brochures that provide the answers to five critical questions:

  • How can I figure out much can I afford to borrow?
  • Do I know how much I will pay?
  • Do I fully understand the contract?
  • What should I do if I am not satisfied with my bank?
  • How can I control my debt levels?

This year, several campaign partners also want to educate their clients about the potential risk of borrowing in a foreign currency. To support this, the MFC teamed up with the European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE), which allowed Campaign partners to use their materials free of charge, and in some cases provided financial support for dissemination.

Who is involved?

This Campaign brings together leaders in client protection from across the region, including: Farm Credit, Nor Horizon, ECLOF, and Kamurj (Armenia); AzerCredit and Viator (Azerbaijan), EKI, Lider, MiBospo, and Partner (Bosnia and Herzegovina); SIS Credit (Bulgaria); Crystal (Georgia); AFK (Kosovo); Baitushum (Kyrgyzstan), Horizonti (Macedonia); Microinvest (Moldova); Xac Bank (Mongolia); AgroInvest (Serbia and Montenegro); Vitas (Romania); MDF, and Opportunity Bank (Serbia); Bank Eskhata and Imon (Tajikistan); and Hope (Ukraine).

Want to find out more?

Visit the Microfinance Centre website for more information about the campaign!

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People's Postcode Lottery helps CYFI to economically empower children & youth!

CYFI is delighted to confirm that players of People’s Postcode Lottery have awarded an extra £1.575 million to long-term supported charities. Charity Name is one of 63 charities that will receive the extra £25,000 award from players of the charity lottery.

This £25,000 ‘Impact Award’ has been awarded to encourage the supported charities to improve the practice of impact assessment. This valuable tool will enable charities to grow, to develop and assess their own impact on society.

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “It is fantastic news that players are able to support these wonderful charities with an extra £25,000 each, with an amazing £1.575 million being awarded overall. We are very proud that our players can continue to support the development of these fantastic causes.”

This additional funding comes at a very exciting time for the charity lottery as they mark 10 years since the first ever draw. The last 10 years have created thousands of lucky winners but also have provided vital funding from numerous charities across Great Britain and internationally. With 27.5% awarded to charities from every £2 ticket, its players have raised more than £82 million.

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CYFI Youth's Views on SDGs

The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 to officially adopt the Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years is taking place at this very moment in New York City. CYFI continues to strongly advocate for an emphasis to be places on children and youth as a specific target group to monitor and evaluate the progress of these goals, along with their associated targets and indicators.

To bring attention to the importance of these global goals, a few of our CYFI interns came together to take part in the #LightTheWay campaign. They took this opportunity to emphasize the impact that the global goals will have on youth, and to encourage global leaders at the Summit to #LightTheWay for a better financial future for children and youth!


Here is a look at what they had to say:

GOAL 1: Ending poverty

Raluca – CYFI Intern – Romania

In the small villages of Transylvania (yes, yes, there, in Dracula’s country), the streets are dirtier, there are more social problems, the towns are more dramatic, the children are ill and thin but friendly. Romania is known for being poor. But there, in small villages, poverty is even worse. I love my country but, whenever I go back to Romania I see again sad faces, overwhelmed by their daily problems. I accept again the fact that Romanians need help. Somehow, the world leaders should look at poverty and somebody should #LightTheWay for Eastern Europe and Romania.

Global goal #1, ending poverty, can make a change for the poor Romanian children: they can wake up in the morning, put some clean clothes on and go somewhere to play, not preparing for street-begging like they now do.

GOAL 4: Education for all

Diana – CYFI Intern – Romania

I have always believed that education is one of the most important parts in one’s life. We self-educate and we are educated starting from a tender age, when the wish to learn and to understand the environment manifests itself.

Starting with children and youth, regardless of sex, race, or other variables that might be seen as an impediment, and continuing in adult life, education is an on-going process; education for all should be a long-term goal, until it becomes a matter of fact, and not an issue on the agenda. It should be achievable all around the Globe. We all want a better future, so let’s work together and help give everyone the opportunity to shape their future through education. Because education is indeed for all! I encourage world leaders to #LightTheWay and to allow all children to receive the education they deserve. It is important to keep in mind that educated children and youth means an educated nation!

GOAL 5: Gender equality

Veronika & Angela – CYFI Interns – Ukraine & Romania

The issue of Gender Equality is not about different deeds, behavior, positions in social, political life of males and females, but about the difference in access to services, labor or any social privileges. Men and women should have the same opportunities and rights. In my opinion, historically, women have been portrayed as the more delicate, gentle and vulnerable of the two sexes, and as a result, society had assigned a secondary role for women. This has also resulted in the infringement of their rights. It is unfair to perpetuate this view, men and women should decide by themselves what to do and how to behave, and have the same opportunities and rights.

A little over half of the entire population is represented by women. Gender equality means access in the same manner for both women and men to all the sectors of public and private life. The juridical status of women has been improved, but gender equality is far from being a reality. Indeed, there has been visible and huge progress: access to education and the labor market, and political representation. However, the gender differences are a fact in many countries have underlined by continuing to put the men in the traditional roles. Gender inequality in the health and education sector has decreased even in the less developed countries. The more women have access to education, the less gender inequality will exist in the process of getting a job and this will involve more women in the labor market.

We encourage global leaders to #LightTheWay for gender equality!

GOAL 8: Sustainable economic growth

Merijn – CYFI Intern – Netherlands

Finding a job in the labor market is often particularly challenging for youth. Many may not have had a proper education – because it was not available or they did not have the financial means – and many may also lack relevant work experience. Simultaneously, there may be a mismatch in the labor market between jobs available and expertise required. Or, jobs may simply not be available at all. Long term youth unemployment risks are creating a lost generation of people: no relevant work experience yet having to compete with recent graduates whose knowledge is still fresh.

I hope that global leaders will #LightTheWay and commit to their ambition of boosting job creation for youth. Youth-friendly entrepreneurial support systems – including youth oriented financial inclusion – may lead the way.

GOAL 16: Peaceful and inclusive societies

Veronica – CYFI Intern – Argentina

Goal 16 refers to the necessity of decreasing violence, abuse, trafficking, bribery and overall calls for more transparent institutions and international cooperation. Considering the meaning of this goal, I believe that it will only be when goal 16 of the SGDs is carried out successfully that all other goals will be possible to be achieved as well. The reasoning for me to claim this is simple: if a state is internally distraught and is unable to maintain a nonviolent and collected society, it will also not have the necessary benchmark to work on the more complex social issues that the other SGDs refer to. If a state is in chaos and unable or unwilling to follow the rule of law, they will not be in the position of promoting a peaceful and inclusive society and even less in the position to call for a reduction of poverty, gender equality, etc.

To summarize, I believe that it is extremely important for leaders of the world to #LightTheWay for peaceful and inclusive societies for children and youth to grow in, so that all countries around the world will be strong enough to tackle with less difficulty the other Sustainable Development Goals.

Child and Youth Finance International encourages world leaders to #LightTheWay for the success of each of the goals!

This post is part of our series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and are authored by youth interns at Child and Youth Finance International. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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Can Agriculture be the solution to meet SDG Number 1 - Ending poverty?

Author: Purity Kendi Muthomi (21) from Kenya

Poverty varies considerably depending on the situation. Having lived in Kenya for 18 years, and then three years in Costa Rica, has made me realize that poverty varies depending on the situation. When I compare what is said to be poor in Costa Rica, to me I see that almost as an average lifestyle in Kenya. And when I imagine feeling poor in Canada, I see this as very different from living in poverty in Costa Rica. It is important to note that poverty is not just about lack of money - there is much more to it than we think:

Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom. - World Bank

Amongst the proposed SDGs, is Goal 1: ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Poverty is hunger.

If we have 8 billion mouths to feed in this world, a solution must be found. According to the World Food Programme, some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life and poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five - 3.1 million children each year. I believe agriculture is the strongest tool to end poverty if we have to ensure the 3.1 million children receive the nourishment that they need.

Povety is not having a job.

Unemployment has caused many youth in Kenya to stagnate in poverty since they have no way to make ends meet. Most of today’s young people are expected to work to fund for their education in the Tertiary colleges, to support their families, to pay school fees for their siblings and to acquire the essential basic needs for survival.

So how to fight both hunger and unemployment?

In my experience, ensuring that agricultural extension or private services are available to train farmers in best agricultural practices and help provide access to inputs, credit to facilitate harvest loans and appropriate technologies at the time of planting is what the governments should be busy working on. Let the small scale farmers be taught how to maximize their production, how to ensure there are less, or no, post-harvest losses, how to fight what pests, insects and what weeds are robbing humanity when it comes to agriculture. Let us educate our farmers to grow crops - healthy eating – healthy spending – and healthy saving!

Through savings, I was able to start a poultry business that I had zero knowledge about and no experience at all working with poultry. I started Gespak Poultry Farm, an integrated poultry venture encompassing all sustainable techniques and whose initial idea was to ensure I come up with a circular economy that the entire world can embrace to help solve the current global issues of food security, unemployment, hunger, waste management, water treatment, climatic change and above all poverty. The company has a poultry house (pen) that has almost 1,400 chickens at the moment and out of it I have been able to generate income; I can support my family and help them meet all their needs. I sell eggs and chicken meat to fast food and hotel operators, day-old chicks to farmers and I too bag the poultry droppings and sell them to the crop farmers as manure.

The results are not only a sustainable business, but one that encourages other youth to take part in the poultry business. I believe that youth can create their own employment regardless of their level of education or experience. Out of the business, I have employed four other young people to help in the feeding, cleaning and all other activities needed in the farm and this has not only improved their lifestyle but also provided them with more knowledge and skills to even start their own businesses on the same or any entrepreneurial venture in farming.

Again, let us educate our farmers to grow crops - healthy eating – healthy spending – and healthy saving! This will help us to work together to achieve Goal 1, and to help provide young people with the knowledge, skills, and experience to take part in today’s economy.

About the author: Purity is an undergraduate student at EARTH University in Costa Rica, pursuing Agricultural sciences and Natural resources management. She is passionate about inspiring and changing the lives of young people and the vulnerable in the society. Being part of CYFI has coached her, taught her and molded her to be an Agri-preneur where she was able to start her own business.

This post is part of our series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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Gender Equality: Insights on Financial Literacy and Economic Empowerment

Author: Sana Afouaiz - Youth Advocate for Governance and Accountability at Restless Development Organization.

In their actions the Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team (The Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team is an initiative spearheaded by Restless Development, the British Youth Council, ActionAid and Plan UK) advocate for the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on governance, and the participation of young people in governance and accountability. The Governance team has also called for integration of gender equality concerns, and inclusion of young women in decision-making, this through global and national advocacy and campaigning actions in different countries. They highlighted youth priorities, with a special focus on governance & accountability, in the post-2015 development agenda by taking part and speaking at different high level meetings and global discussions in the United Nations among other international bodies.

Gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals

The draft outcome document “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, will be officially adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, which will be held in New York from 25-27 September 2015.

This is the first development agenda that has been negotiated and agreed by all Member States and which is applicable to all for the next 15 years.

The new sustainable development goals aim to complete what the MDGS did not achieve, through addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality and the sustainable development that works for all. The new agenda addresses an action plan for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. It highlights the necessity of fostering peaceful, inclusive societies and calls for the participation of all countries, stakeholders and youth. The determined agenda pursues to end poverty by 2030 and endorse shared economic prosperity, social development and environmental protection. This new agenda that is founded on 17 goals, including a goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as well as gender sensitive targets in other goals.

Assuring and protecting economic empowerment on an equal basis for both men and women has been acknowledged as a human right and as a concern for policymakers. Along with the strap line of United Nations in order to achieve the Millennium Development goals, women’s empowerment is seen as a prerequisite.

The importance of economic empowerment for women and girls

A number of studies and researches over the past years have highlighted that gender equality is a smart economic tool. It has been determined that the unexploited potential of women is a lost opportunity for economic progress and development. Women’s economic participation promotes agricultural productivity, enterprise expansion at the micro and macro, small and medium enterprise levels, in addition to improving business management and returns on investments.

Yet, awareness of gender differences in financial literacy and of their significant implications has endured quite low albeit policy makers now perceive financial literacy as an essential for sustainable development, and financial education has become a vital policy priority.

According to the OECD/INFE financial literacy survey, women have lower financial knowledge than men in a great number of developed and developing countries. Women tend to be less-educated and possess low-income and most of them lack financial knowledge. The survey shows that women are less confident than men in their financial skills, they are less over-confident in financial matters, and are more averse to financial risk.

When it comes to financial behavior, women seem to be better than men at keeping trail of their finances, but they face more struggles in making ends meet and choosing financial products fittingly.

Regardless of its importance, recent initiatives to measure “financial literacy” recommend that levels of financial literacy understanding are low. This typical situation limits the objective understanding of financial issues and leads to subjective interpretation.

Due the external environment challenges, it becomes a necessity for individuals to enhance their financial understanding, to make appropriate financial decisions so to reach positive outcomes. Such challenges include the decline of public welfare policies, increased life expectation and health care costs; the development of complex financial markets; and effects of the global financial crisis. Whereas the need for financial literacy is largely acknowledged as vital, though the importance of equal gender dimension stays a subject for debate. Such gender differences represent fundamental problems for social equity, with several consequences on sustainable development of countries.

Countries tend to display loss of economic potential when one half of their population is disoriented, particularly in societies where a great percentage of production takes place in informal enterprises run by women. Low levels of female financial literacy and confidence have a negative impact on their participation in the economy.

The conceptual framework that individuals face may differ according to inherent characteristics among populations of women and men that affect their chances to obtain financial literacy. These characteristics may be different: (age; personality traits; environmental constraints). Women and men experience different cultural norms, which limit where, when and how they best learn about personal finance. Studying these factors is important as they may have impact on founding relevant policy responses: effective financial education interventions necessitate addressing different root causes.

Understanding the gender causes of financial literacy in countries requires effective policy design policy, analytical and comparative reports and research highlighting good practices and detailed case studies on financial education and literacy across national and regional levels. Policy makers need to emphasize standards, principles and guidelines as well practical tools to enable and improve strategic financial education.

Investing in women promotes financial literacy and economic growth

Besides boosting economic growth, I believe investing in women has multiplier effects; women plow a large portion of their income in their families and communities. They play crucial role in creating peaceful and stable societies which are important factors for economic growth. Regrettably, even these benefits have been universally recognized and have therefore not translated into women’s full economic participation in different countries, especially in developing countries, where women still face obstacles when establishing new businesses or even increasing existing ones. Among the biggest obstacles are discriminatory laws, regulations and business conditions, with women’s lack of access to property rights, finance, training, technology, markets, mentors, and networks. According to “Women Finance Hub”: 71 countries prevent women from working in some industries. 16 countries don’t let married women get jobs without their husband’s permission, 44% countries don’t let women work at night. We can only imagine one of the reasons behind the lack of economic development of the world when half of the population is discriminated from full participation in the economic level.

Although there has been current focus on developing women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries, this spotlight has been on growth-oriented women’s businesses. Women’s entrepreneurship in micro and small business that are often measured as informal, regardless of these concentrated efforts of poverty reduction initiatives through increased access to skills training and micro-credit, still have not been able to reach the growth potential among women.

I have been working with women in different countries in Africa and Middle East, and I have noticed that the role of women in national economies is more emphasized in recent years by ensuring gender equality and women empowerment among individuals. But the fact is that women have less access to resources, education and health facilities in most of the developing countries, where women are half the workforce. Greater participation of women in economic activities is the major concern of most of the countries, which is considered as one of the best tools to achieve and attain a sustain development.

Governments need to show more financial aid to support efforts to increase women’s access to quality financial services; there is an urge need to highlight women’s crucial role in advancing agricultural development and food security, and encourage policy and programmatic support for female farmers and agricultural businesses owned by women, and reform the policy to facilitating the processes for women in this field.

More support to NGOs, industry associations, and corporations advocating for policy and programmatic solutions that would enable women’s economic participation, also enhance more technology access and providing access to mobile phones, internet, and other vital technologies along with addressing cultural, financial, educational barriers.

Provide capacity building, trainings, and mentoring programs to women and girls and equip them with market information, entrepreneurship opportunities, and the necessary skills to attain economic independence; and encourage best practices to increase women’s leadership in the sector of business and entrepreneurship.

Government states especially in developing countries need to find a solution to one of the biggest obstacles which is data collection; endorse the collection and configuration of gender data in the economic sector to create evidence-based policy and programs aimed at increasing women’s economic participation across all sectors. Governments need to provide their youth with space to hold their leaders accountable and that’s by ensuring youth participation in data collection and arrange for youth to express their innovative analyses that form the basis for recommendations to policymakers, help them make decisions and promote policies best suited to ending global economic inequalities and to generating people-centered sustainable development.

About the author:

Sana Afouaiz is an advocate in the areas of women and youth empowerment. She is the Founder of “African Youth Advocate Platform”, created this initiative after her intensive 3 years work in advocating and lobbying for youth and women issues, her striving goal to empower young people drove her to travel to more than 20 countries where she spoke and promoted for youth voices in high-level discussion meetings. Sana also assists African development by promoting the economic integration of African youth in Diaspora for “Verein Afrikanischer Studentinnen Und Studenten”.

This post is part of our series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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Say “Yes” to financial education: An economic perspective on Education For All

Author: Diana Udriste and Angela Izvercian, Communications Interns at Child and Youth Finance International

Do you think you are obtaining the information you need to understand money matters in the future? Do you feel equipped to make financial decisions later in life? Do you ever feel confused by financial products and economic terms?

In many cases, adults of today did not receive economic education during schooling and many have difficulty with knowledge of financial terms and money management – for example, a recent survey found that, consumer debt has increased in Korea, while between 3% and 10% of the population in the OECD are without a bank account. And the problem does not just relate to older generations – “National surveys show that young adults have amongst the lowest levels of financial literacy”. The current economic situation highlights the negative effect a lack of financial education can have; debt and unemployment can ultimately lead to social and financial exclusion. Including economic citizenship education as part of the post-2015 push for inclusive and equitable quality education for all is increasingly important for economic and social well-being.

The need for inclusive and equitable quality education for children and youth

A lack of education can have negative effects on individuals, their families and communities, and nations as a whole – it is estimated that an absence of quality education is “preventing millions of people from escaping the cycle of extreme poverty around the world”. Without the necessary knowledge and skills, 759 million people worldwide currently do not have the literacy skills or ability to improve their situation and break the cycle of poverty.

Receiving quality education impacts the ability of youth to get jobs which will provide a reliable income, or helps them to set up enterprises and create their own livelihood. McKinsey notes that “globally, 75 million young people are unemployed, but businesses can't find enough skilled workers to fill job vacancies”, which illustrates the clear link between education and employment. Alongside ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education as a universal right for all, children and youth must be given financial, social and livelihoods education and the opportunity to develop employment skills – something which is increasingly recognized by the international community and national governments worldwide.

For this reason, CYFI puts the financial education and financial inclusion of children and youth at the core of its mission. In order to prevent a lack of financial knowledge and experience amongst adults, CYFI believes that such a trend can be changed through financial educational programs targeted specifically at children and young people. By implementing financial education programs and curricula at an early age, children and young people will be given the financial knowledge and skills they need as they develop in the financial world. However, CYFI does not see financial education as a single component. Rather, Economic Citizenship Education, the combination of financial, social and livelihoods education from an early age is what will mostly strongly prepare young people as economic citizens.

As the official adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals is just weeks away, CYFI is pleased to see that Goal 4 of the SDGs focuses specifically on education opportunities:

While Goal 4 does not focus specifically on financial, social or livelihoods education, CYFI is hopeful that the related indicators will incorporate economic citizenship education aspects in order to pave the way for today’s youngest generation to understand their position within the financial landscape. CYFI has proposed the following suggested indicators to complement the targets associated with Goal 4:

  • Goal 4 – Target 4: Number of children and youth receiving compulsory Economic Citizenship Education (which includes a combination of financial, social and livelihoods education) for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
  • Goal 4 – Target 4: Number of jobs created for young people through skills training programs.
  • Goal 4 – Target 4: Number of enterprises supported through education, training and resources for young entrepreneurs
  • Goal 4 – Target 5: % of girls and % of boys receiving Economic Citizenship Education (which includes a combination of financial, social and livelihoods education)
  • Goal 4 – Target 7: Number of children and youth receiving compulsory Economic Citizenship Education (which includes a combination of financial, social and livelihoods education) in both primary and secondary schools.
  • Goal 4 – Target 7: Number of children and youth receiving Economic Citizenship Education (which includes a combination of financial, social and livelihoods education) through non-formal education channels.

The benefits of economic citizenship education for youth

CYFI are advocating for these indicators presented above to be included as part of the targets for Goal 4. There is proof that equipping youth with economic citizenship education works, as evidenced by countries which have already included financial education in their national curricula. In the UK, financial education has been taught in secondary schools since September 2014, in order to help students become financially independent and tackle money issues they come across in later life. New Zealand and Czech Republic also present better financial awareness amongst youth than many other countries, and are examples of where the ministry of education has a responsibility for financial literacy and where a concrete national strategy is in place.

CYFI encourages all countries to adopt economic citizenship education components as part of their curricula. While great progress has been made in terms of national governments implementing financial education curricula, more is needed on a global scale to truly make a systemic change and improve the lives and futures of young people worldwide. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have the potential to make a global impact, and to strengthen today’s youth as leaders of tomorrow. Children and youth must be allowed access to quality education which incorporates financial, social and livelihoods education – creating the independent and empowered economic citizens of tomorrow.

How is CYFI promoting Economic Citizenship Opportunities for youth?

Our annual Youth Awards competition is happening right now! This year, the Awards Ceremony will take place in London at the House of Lords, on 10th of December, 2015. Applications are open until 15th of September and CYFI encourages all young people between the ages of 8 – 25 to apply!

Also, Global Money Week (GMW), Ye! Community, CYFI Youth, and SchoolBank are four of our main initiatives to promote financial education and inclusion for children and youth globally!

This post is part of our series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and are authored by youth interns at Child and Youth Finance International. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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Child & Youth Finance International explica el estado actual de la regulación y las políticas para mejorar la inclusión financiera de la juventud

Los adolescentes en América Latina (10 - 19 años) representa en promedio 21% de la población. En algunos países, este mismo grupo representa una porción importante de la población económicamente activa, sin embargo, poco se habla de su participación en la economía de la región en términos de su inclusión en los sistemas financieros formales.

Este problema refuerza la importancia que CYFI pone en la conexión entre la inclusión financiera de los jóvenes y los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible. En particular los objetivos, uno, cinco y ocho:

  • Objectivo 1 - Poner fin a la pobreza en todas sus formas en todo el mundo
  • Objectivo 5 - Lograr la igualdad entre los géneros y el empoderamiento de todas las mujeres y niñas
  • Objectivo 8 - Promover el crecimiento económico sostenido, inclusivo y sostenible, el empleo pleno y productivo y el trabajo decente para todos

El tema de la inclusión financiera de niños, niñas y jóvenes hasta ahora ha ocupado principalmente a cientos de organizaciones no gubernamentales que trabajan en el empoderamiento económico de este segmento de la población. La organización Aflatoun, en su empeño por demostrar la capacidad financiera de niños, niñas y jóvenes en todo el mundo, estima que, a través de sus aliados y programas dedicados a este segmento, se han ahorrado cerca de EUR 2,76 millones en 2014 (unos US$ 3,03 millones). Sin embargo, este número proviene en cierta medida de iniciativas de ahorro no formales, que si bien sirven como extraordinarios ejemplo de lo que es posible, no permiten la creación de un modelo que conlleve la inclusión de niños, niñas y jóvenes a los sistemas financieros formales, de forma segura y teniendo a su disposición regulación y productos especialmente diseñados con este fin.

Las barreras de acceso para este segmento de la población son diversas en la región, entre ellas se encuentran: (1) regulación desfavorable, en la que menores de edad no poseen ninguna capacidad legal, o que limita el tipo de transacciones de las que niños, niñas y jóvenes pueden participar; (2) productos financieros inapropiados o inaccesibles para poblaciones vulnerables, con altas tasas de apertura o cuotas de mantenimiento; (3) poco entendimiento de cómo funciona el sistema financiero, y/o productos a sus disposición por parte de los potenciales clientes; y finalmente (4) barreras culturales o de género, las cuales impiden que ciertos grupos de niños, niñas y jóvenes posean autonomía en el manejo de sus recursos financieros.

A pesar de esto, existe un creciente interés de parte de instituciones de gobierno por permitir que niños, niñas y jóvenes puedan ser participes de los sistemas financieros formales de la región.

Por ejemplo, en 2010 el Congreso de la República Oriental del Uruguay, modificó la carta constitutiva del Banco de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay (BROU), permitiendo a niños y niñas de más de 14 años de edad abrir y operar cuentas de ahorro de forma completamente autónoma. Perú, también ha hecho considerables avances en el tema. Desde el año 2014, se encuentra en discusión en el Congreso de esta nación una ley con el fin de permitir la apertura de cuentas de ahorro a menores de edad, parte sin duda, de los avances que hace este país en materia de inclusión financiera.

Para poder iniciar el debate en cuanto a los cambios de regulación necesarios para hacer de la inclusión financiera de niños, niñas y jóvenes una realidad, es necesario tener un panorama claro de en qué estado se encuentra la regulación que afecta la participación de menores de edad en los sistemas financieros de la región.

Para contribuir a este campo de la investigación en marzo de 2014 Child and Youth Finance International de la mano del Banco de la República de Colombia y con la colaboración del Centro de Estudios Monetarios de Latino América y la Asociación de Supervisores Bancarios de las Américas (ASBA), difundió entre los principales organismos reguladores de la región una encuesta, para recopilar información sobre las políticas en materia de inclusión financiera de niños, niñas y jóvenes en 14 países: Argentina, Belice, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Paraguay, Perú y el territorio de ultramar británico de las Islas Vírgenes participaron del estudio.

El mismo presenta las principales conclusiones de la encuesta y explora el estado actual de la regulación y las políticas que pueden mejorar la inclusión financiera de niños, niñas y jóvenes en la región, dando recomendaciones en la creación de políticas públicas, que se derivan de un análisis cruzado de la regulación existente en estos países.

El documento resultante también ofrece, una descripción del contexto y los antecedentes de los países analizados; ideas sobre la importancia de incrementar la inclusión financiera de los menores en la región; principales tendencias encontradas en cuanto a regulación en la materia; y un pequeño compendio de las mejores prácticas.

CYFI está muy contento de ver que diferentes medidas están siendo tomadas en América Latina para mejorar la inclusión financiera de los niños, niñas y jóvenes. Como la adopción oficial de las Naciones Unidas de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible se acerca rápidamente, CYFI tiene la esperanza que por lo menos un indicador para medir el número de niños y jóvenes que reciben productos y servicios financieros adecuados se incorporarán a los objetivos 1, 5 y 8 para promover la inclusión financiera de los niños y jóvenes no solo en América Latina, sino también en todo el mundo.

Sofía Ortega Tineo es Asesora Regional Senior para América Latina y el Caribe de Child and Youth Finance International.

This blog is the eleventh in a series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and are authored by youth interns at Child and Youth Finance International. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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CYFI supporting young entrepreneurs and the 8th Sustainable Development Goal

Author: Jie Xue, Innovations Coordinator

On August 8th, Startup Summit, a joint event by Ye! and Young Entrepreneurs Society (YES), took place in Manila, Philippines. The event announced the 10 winners of the Ye! Boost Camp Scholarships and the Top 5 startups that will represent the Philippines in other startup competitions.

This event is one of the many ways in which CYFI is supporting Goal #8 of the Sustainable Development Goals: to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Attended by over 500 participants, the event brought together top startups, successful entrepreneurs, investors, and other key players of the entrepreneurship ecosystem of the country.

The one-day event kicked off insightful talks with speakers such as Jay Fajardo - serial tech entrepreneur and one of the pioneers of the Philippines’ tech startup scene; Frederic Levy - Founder & CEO of CashCash Pinoy, the country’s No. 1 product flash sale website; and Subir Lohani - Managing Director of Carmudi Philippines, the fastest growing car classifies platform in emerging markets.

The afternoon saw fierce pitching competition of the top 20 startups, which were selected among the 50 startups invited to participate in the Ye! Boost Video Competition. These 20 startups represent a variety of sectors like technology, agriculture, education, fashion, and clean energy. Each startup pitched their venture for a maximum of 5 minutes, followed by a Q&A with a panel of judges.

Winners of the Ye! Boost Camp Scholarships were announced, including the winner of the Ye! Boost Video Competition (for the aged under 30 group), Apollo, which received 3492 votes in the competition. These 10 entrepreneurs will attend the Ye! Boost Camp this October in Amsterdam, an acceleration and training event for entrepreneurs in Kenya, Ghana and the Philippines. With youth unemployment at a record high, 12.6 per cent in 2011 according to the International Labor Organization, this calls to question not only the number of youth who are unemployed, but also the number of young people who are “NEET”: neither in employment nor in education or training. In 2012, data for 24 developing economies showed an average NEET rate of 12.4 per cent for young men and 28.1 per cent for young women. With training programs such as through the Ye! Boost Camp, CYFI is determined to see Target 8.6, to substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training by 2020, succeed for young people around the world, and particularly for young women.

As stated in Target 8.5 of Goal 8, to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value by 2030, CYFI hopes that with more events such as the Ye! Boost camp, and a global push for young people to develop the skills and knowledge that they need in order to thrive in their own entrepreneurship adventures, the world will see the potential of young people to boost not only local economies, but the power of young people to change the financial landscape at large. CYFI is thrilled to see the efforts of the United Nations through the Sustainable Development Goals to develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment by 2020, as described in Target 8b of the SDGs, and will continue to work towards contributing to and reaching this goal.

The 10 Ye! Boost Camp Scholarship Winners are (click to view their videos)

Winners of Ye! Boost Video Competition

Aged 16~30 Group

Aged 30+ Group

Winners that will compete in further competitions

  • – to compete in Get in the Ring
  • iHarvest – to compete in Future Agro Challenge
  • Qwikwire - to compete in The Pitch event

This blog is the tenth in a series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and are authored by youth interns at Child & Youth Finance International. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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Accessible Business Incubators – Hubs for SDG Realization!

Author: Mateja Olujic - Former CYFI Entrepreneurship Intern
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International Youth Day 2015: CYFI's Statement on the Importance of Economic Citizenship for Youth

Economic citizenship is crucial for empowering youth to take control over their financial futures and break the crippling cycles of extreme poverty, debt, and social and financial exclusion. By linking financial access with financial, social and livelihoods education, it is possible for children and youth to become empowered, responsible and engaged economic citizens.

The theme for International Youth Day 2015 is Youth Civic Engagement. The United Nations System-Wide Action Plan on Youth prioritises Youth Civic Engagement as a main goal, and seeks to promote inclusive civic engagement at all levels in order to empower youth, to benefit society, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. During his message on World Skills Day in July, United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon noted that “With the right skills, young people are exactly the force we need to drive progress across the global agenda and build more inclusive and vibrant societies”.

Child and Youth Finance International (CYFI), and members of the Child and Youth Finance Movement, fully support this statement and are dedicated to placing youth at the forefront of inclusive societies. CYFI is committed to improving the economic citizenship of youth worldwide, to ensure the reduction of poverty, improve economic and social engagement, promote the rights of youth, and help them to build a brighter future for themselves, their families, and communities.

For Managing Director and Founder of CYFI, Jeroo Billimoria, economic citizenship is key to ensuring the social and economic inclusion of youth; “Everyone needs a livelihood - we must prepare young people to be empowered citizens. Access to a bank account and education on social and financial matters are vital because they are the foundation stones for the future”.

In order to create engaged and empowered citizens, CYFI promotes comprehensive policies and practices around the themes of human rights, financial inclusion and financial behaviour change for children and youth. CYFI encourages the development of financial literacy and capabilities, enabling young people to make wise personal finance decisions suited to their social and economic needs, which fosters their personal and civic wellbeing and financial protection later in life.

This International Youth Day, CYFI is advocating for the greater Civic Engagement of Youth. We believe that the creation of a generation of empowered economic citizens around the world will break the destructive cycles of poverty and exclusion for good.

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Youth, Stand up for Economic Citizenship!

Author - Eva Lestant, Economic & Finance student and former CYFI Intern.
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Children and the Financial Regulatory Landscape in Latin America

We are pleased to release the final version of the report on “Children and the Financial Regulatory Landscape in Latin America”, by Nohora Forero Ramírez, Floor Knoote & Sofía Ortega, of the Central Bank of Colombia and Child and Youth Finance International (resp.).

This document presents and analyses the findings of a survey released by CYFI in the first semester of 2014, which was disseminated among the regulatory authorities in the region of Latin America. It gathers information on countries in the region, on financial inclusion policies and financial and consumer protection regulation targeted towards children and youth. Results suggest that there is a great diversity in approaches to financial service regulation the lower age segments in the region and young people are rarely seen as independent economic actors. This study is a collaboration between CYFI, Association of Supervisors of Banks of the Americas and Banco de la República (Central Bank of Colombia). CYFI aims to replicate this study in the other regions in order to present a global analysis.

You can view the full publication here.
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A Journey Towards Sustainable Development

Author: Aakash Shah, CYFI Youth Committee Member.
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Economic empowerment for girls: Why it matters!

Empowering Girls

Author - Temko Dorris Kirui, Global Engagement and Evaluation Intern

It cannot be denied that girls make up a critical demography for social change as well as global development. Girls represent a huge underserved population especially in the developing world. It is estimated that those under the age of 25 make up 43 per cent of the world’s population and 60 per cent reside in the least developed countries. Currently, the cohort of adolescent girls is the largest in human history and this number is expected to rise in the next few decades. However, adolescent girls tend not to be included in many developments programs. Many of these adolescent girls face vulnerability, which includes lacking family and community support, limited economic opportunities, not having a voice, as well as unfavourable social attitudes. As a result, their economic and social empowerment is constrained thus leading to risky behaviours at times. Despite this, working with and for these adolescent girls should be perceived as a human right and critical for development. A recent multi-country analysis states that closing the gender gap especially during the adolescent period in areas of education, economic activity and health would have significant impact on the national economic growth and the well-being of girls.

Across the globe, especially in the developing world, women and girls continue to bear the brunt of poverty. However, it is possible to take effective and practical action, which will enable women and girls to reach their full potential. Moreover, we should be aware that investing in women and girls does not only transform their lives but also communities, societies and economies. Empowering girls and women has multiple effects for economic growth and the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By reaching girls, in particular, at an early stage, we can transform their life chances. Empowering girls to take greater control over the decisions that affect their lives helps to break the cycle of poverty.

What is economic empowerment?

While there is no clear definition of girls’ economic empowerment, we can use the definition for women’s economic empowerment. Replacing the word ‘women’ for ‘girls’ and taking the definition by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), we can say that the economic empowerment of girls is “The capacity for girls to participate in, contribute to and benefit from growth processes in ways that recognise the value of their contribution, respect their dignity and make it possible to negotiate a fairer distribution of the benefits growth”. Economic empowerment of girls is not only about providing them with resources but also opportunities in which they can apply these resources and achieve economic success. By providing better jobs, developing practical skills and education opportunities, facilitating greater land access and allowing greater participation in decision-making, women and girls can lift themselves from poverty as well as improve the quality of life of their families and communities at large.

Why does economic empowerment for girls matter?

A research conducted by the Adolescent Girls Advocacy and Leadership Initiative (AGALI) reveals that 600 million girls around the globe face widespread poverty and limited access to education, health services as well as discrimination and violence. As compared to adult women or adolescent boys, adolescent girls tend to be the most economically vulnerable. In many places, adolescent girls lack access to the available financial capital, education, knowledge as well as the skills, which can lead to their economic advancement. Moreover, adolescent girls often have no social support while the social norms of the communities can hinder their economic advancement. Therefore, economic empowerment can be a crucial lever for change in the lives of adolescent girls by helping them to gain their financial independence, develop good saving habits and improve their future chances of participating in the labour force. In addition, it can provide these girls with mobility, boost their confidence, strengthen their social ties and improve the outcome of their personal health.

According to discussion points by the Women Refugee Commission (WRC), there is evidence that the economic empowerment of girls can reduce their risk of gender based violence (GBV) which is often associated with them being economically deprived. By owning economic assets, girls are empowered and given greater agency, reducing GBV by increasing their bargaining power. Ownership of assets by women and girls gives them the power to make some decisions in the household, reduces malnutrition among their children and gives them the freedom to leave situations of domestic violence. Financial education or the accumulation of assets by girls has also been shown to improve school attendance and reduce sexual behaviour, which is associated with the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Furthermore, economic empowerment of young girls is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development, pro-poor growth and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When young girls are empowered, they act as catalysts for development. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) incepted in 2000 have helped lift many people out of poverty. The inclusion of MDG 3, which focused on gender equality and empowerment, has been crucial in the recognition of gender equality as a prerequisite for development. However, while we acknowledge that the MDGs have had an impact on the lives of young girls and women, we can also point out the gaps that need to be filled in the post-2015 agenda. This conversation is very important as we set out the Sustainable Development Goals to guide governments for the next fifteen years. One vital omission from the MDGs was the particular needs for girls and young women. Although goal number 3 addressed the issue of gender parity, it did not seek to focus on the systematic discrimination that girls and young women face daily. Yet it can be stated that girls are the key to meeting the promise of development goals. Providing girls and young women with a better future is not only a goal in itself but a way of improving communities and families. The inclusion of the needs and priorities of young girls and women in the post 2015 agenda will mean ensuring the human rights of the new generation and generations thereafter. In addition, it will harness a development asset that is yet untapped.

Among the proposed SDGs is goal number 5, which focuses on achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. While this is an important target, there is evidence that the empowerment of women and young girls is an essential step towards the achievement of other SDGs as well. crucial step towards the achievement of other goals. With the SDGs set, it is our hope that governments and donors will be ambitious enough to set targets that capture the many angles of women and girls empowerment, including greater economic opportunities and political representation, if the goal is to be achieved.

This blog is the sixth in a series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and are authored by youth interns at Child & Youth Finance International. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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The Road Ahead from Addis

Author - Jared Penner, Manager of Global Engagement and Evaluation, CYFI
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The Benefit of Entrepreneurship Education on Youth Unemployment

Authors - Paolo Poggio, intern in the Regional & National Platforms department & Nicolò Florenzio, intern in the Financial Inclusion Department.
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Global Ye! Launch at the G20

Global Ye! Launch at the G20

Ye! Community members are very familiar with some of the challenges facing young entrepreneurs. Excessive bureaucracy and lack of financing options for youth are just some of the obstacles facing aspiring entrepreneurs in many countries across the world. So far, Ye! has been offering you direct support through our community, coaching, country pages, trainings and pitching events, but we want to go further!

This is why the Ye! team at Child & Youth Finance International is honored to announce our first formal, global launch! Taking place on 10 September in Antalya, Turkey, the Global Ye! Launch will be hosted by the G20 as part of their SME meetings. By bringing governments, investors, and multilaterals to the table, the Ye! team and CYFI is now also advocating for better national policies for young entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship education in school, simpler business regulations, and increased access to finance and investment for youth are just some of the themes being discussed.

What can governments, banks, the G20 and the UN do to help entrepreneurs like you? Let us know! Simply write to Philip from the Ye! team via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll bring your questions and suggestions with us to Turkey!

Photo credit: "Antalya dusk" by Mbilgen

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An E-commerce Success Story, the Roller-Coaster Journey of Craftsvilla

The Success Story of a Venture Capitalist turned Entrepreneur, who made his E-Commerce Company Profitable

Mr.Manoj Gupta is the Founder/CEO of and was previously Principal at Nexus Venture Partners – an India focused $600 million fund. Mr.Gupta was also a former board member of multiple companies including and Sohanlal Commodities in India before founding “Craftsvilla”. “Craftsvilla” is a great example for companies to make their business model more sustainable, inclusive and aligned with the societal needs in the post-2015 world, and is an even greater example for young people who are working to start their own business.

The question “Why did become profitable?” may sound naïve, with the most obvious answer being “Of course you should become profitable”. However, many components that contribute to that answer are not always so clear to see. Here is the story of the roller coaster journey of Craftsvilla, and how today Craftsvilla stands tall in e-commerce because their approach to profit focused on looking for long-term success rather than mere survival, without relying on the Venture Capital. Here is the success story of Mr. Gupta’s E-Commerce business start-up.

Today, Craftsvilla is a stand-alone profitable entity without significant funding from VCs. Given Mr. Gupta’s previous VC position, he was already familiar with how quickly a VC and fluctuate between the challenges faced during low periods and the many achievements during a high period.

Sensing the exhaustion of VCs passion for e-commerce, the team started preparing for the worst “no-money” scenario before other companies did, formulating a strategy focusing on three basic action points:

  1. Reduction of Cost
  2. Reduction of Complexity
  3. Expansion of Revenue

Approximately six months ago, the team had 80 people working in five offices across India. Today, there are eight people centralized in one office doing more business than when the team was 10 times that size. One thing I have learned from studying Craftsvilla is that the efficiency drastically boosts when you keep things simple. It is amazing to see how the efficiency increases when you have an optimally-sized team, and how remarkably simplified the work becomes when the employees seated next to each other have specific roles, solving the related issues faster. In addition to a larger staff and multiple offices six months ago, Craftsvilla also had multiple business models with multiple commission structures. Today, Craftsvilla has reduced to one simple business model with one single commission structure. Craftsvilla decided to discontinue their business model called "iManage", through which they managed logistics of their sellers. The program consumed 80% of their resources but contributed to only 20% of the total revenue.

As a result "We need lesser space, we need lesser coordination and we have more time to think what else we can do quantumly different to take us to the next level", says Mr.Gupta. By making such structural and organizational changes, today Craftsvilla is profitable with a steady growth of 15-20% month on month, with Zero discount (a bond bought at a price lower than its face value and the face value paid later on) and COD (cash on delivery) , with double the conversion on traffic and average order value. Their customer acquisition cost is below 250 Rupees and they are recovering the marketing dollars on the customer’s first purchase. All this was done not just to become profitable, but also to make the business capital efficient, scalable and sustainable. Craftsvilla became profitable to mold their business and organization for next level growth, which is going to be largest India has witnessed in the E-Commerce sector so far. Craftsvilla became profitable to be less dependent on fluctuating VC passion, gaining more flexibility and control over the company.

Over the described period of time, Craftsvilla is bringing about a positive change in the livelihoods of base-level customers, artisans and designers. This is aligned with the 8th and 16th goal of United Nations Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which focus on promoting sustained and inclusive economic growth, ensuring productive employment and decent work for all and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. In addition to its successful return, the firm’s business model also stands out in its approach to society and societal needs. While Craftsvilla’s experience proved that it is possible to become profitable in the E-commerce sector, it also showed that becoming “customer-facing, as opposed to “investor-facing” leads to more sustainable and inclusive growth. Craftsvilla uses a marketplace model to capture the regional variations of India. They connect local artisans and designers directly to global customers and thereby increase their livelihoods, remove middlemen, help promote their brand and hence preserve Indian culture, traditions and values.

Craftsvilla’s social engagement also extends to the customers, since the company’s work helps bring goods and services to underserved populations. This journey will help customers match their needs by discovering and buying products they would otherwise not have access to. The company’s strong commitment towards the local communities progressively leads to a greater inclusion and economic empowerment, which will ultimately contribute to the sustainable development of the country’s economy.

Craftsvilla’s experiences while on their path to profitability gave them glimpses of success. They are now more confident than they were six months ago that they will become successful. Furthermore, in doing so, Craftsvilla is contributing to the improvement of society and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Mr. Gupta's exemplary profitable E-commerce set-up, may be of great help and a strong inspiration for other entrepreneurs to shape a future billion-dollar society-friendly organization for generations to come.

Learn more about Craftsvilla at

This blog is the fourth in a series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and are authored by youth working with Child & Youth Finance International. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

About the Author

Ms. Bina Goklaney is 19 years old, and is currently pursuing her BBM-IB (Bachelors in Business Management-International Business) at the Pune University in India, and is a member of the Youth Committee at Child & Youth Finance International.

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Advancing the SDGs by Creating Greater Shared Value

Author: Sandra Cuevas, Intern, Global Engagement and Evaluation, Child & Youth Finance International

Fifteen years ago the world was getting ready for unprecedented change. It was getting ready to welcome a new era, as leaders all around the world engaged in discussions to address the most pressing issues of our planet. Since the adoption of the eight Millennium Development Goals significant progress has been made and a lot has been achieved. However, many of the critical issues that were identified at the turn of the 21st Century (poverty, lack of education, health, violence) are as important today as they were 15 years ago, and in many ways have been compounded. Today, we are mobilizing once more in a joint effort to make the world a better place. As the Sustainable Development Goals are being adopted at the international level, we are, again, ready for change. But this time, we will all need to be on board.

Private Sector Commitment Not Strong Enough

For a long time, the private sector has been blamed for prospering at the expense of local communities. As profit maximizers, firms tend to align their strategies with the financial interests of their business and their shareholders rather than of society, causing environmental and societal problems. However, there is an inevitably strong link between businesses and the community, since they depend on each other as providers and demanders of goods and services. The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) model intends to overcome the tension between them by encouraging firms to give back to society in a philanthropic manner. While this approach stems from a positive intention, CSR has several limitations. Firstly, the social engagement of companies through CSR is not always linked to the operational activities of the firm, making donation decisions particularly subjective. Most importantly, it implies a tradeoff between profit and societal benefits: inevitably, one has to be chosen over the other. Likewise, this often represents a conflict of interest for shareholders, who are rather attracted by the distribution of dividends. Such conflicting priorities can potentially threaten the governance structure of the company. As a result of all this, the commitment of the private sector to improving society is not as strong and efficient as it could be. So does this mean that the CSR has come to a dead end?

Shared Value

We are always told that sharing is caring, but until now it never occurred to us that perhaps we’re just not sharing properly. Perhaps “charity giving” is not the solution. If firms commit to improving livelihoods because they believe it is in their best interest - and not just because they feel responsible for it - their help will be much more effective. What’s more, there would not even be enough resources to solve worldwide issues by mere redistribution. The answer to overcome both these challenges is, instead, the creation of profit, and as Michael Porter and Mark Kramer suggest, it is possible to do so while also creating social value. What they offer is an alternative to CSR called Shared Value, a model they first introduced in their article “Creating Shared Value”, published in 2011 in the Harvard Business Review. This model supports that what is good for society is also good for business. For instance, when a firm focuses on reducing pollution, it makes its consumption more efficient and ultimately cuts operational costs. Similarly, adapting products to the needs of lower income communities may allow businesses to expand and gain clients and profit. Thus, by creating environmental and social value, the private sector can simultaneously gain economic value and enhance its competitiveness.

However, creating shared value is no easy task. It requires time, energy and effort. Other projects of the firm may be delayed due to the time that is required to identify the potential areas of mutual benefit for the business and the community. It is also likely that the company will need to allocate resources for the development of new business models and/or products that are compatible with the real needs of the population, incurring additional costs. However, these initial expenses should be seen as a long-term investment, since the creation of shared value ultimately helps redefine products and services, enable cluster development, build closer ties with the community and expand business activities, all while increasing profit.

This approach requires a shift in mind-set on the role of the private sector in advancing the SDGs and achieving sustainable development. It is with this objective that from the 23rd to the 25th of June, over 12,000 companies joined the conversations at the UN 2015 Global Compact Summit. In this context, Paula Caballero, Senior Director of Environment and Natural Resources at the World Bank, affirmed that “the SDGs can only be implemented in strong partnership between private and public sectors.” While governments and civil society organizations have for long been developing sustainable strategies in order to solve the world’s greatest challenges, they are only capable of collecting and distributing resources. On the other hand, the private sector has the unique ability to generate economic value, hence its enormous potential to help achieve the SDGs and match societal needs. Thus, the social engagement of businesses in the post-2015 world is not only valuable, but also fundamental.

Sustainability is at the core of Economic Citizenship

Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI) believes that at the core of economic citizenship lie financial sustainability, social responsibility and a respect for community and environment impact. Therefore, CYFI supports companies that are adapting their business strategies to contribute to gender equality or to the empowerment of children and youth through financial inclusion and education. For instance, since 2009, Coca Cola offers a program for low-income communities in Brazil that provides technical training and career guidance for unemployed youth. As of January 2014, the program had trained approximately 60,000 youth, 70% of whom were women, in more than 100 communities across Brazil. Thanks to this action, Coca Cola managed to increase its sales swiftly and improve the consumer-retailer relationship in those communities. Similarly, Telefónica’s Think Big and Talentum programs create shared value by focusing on youth entrepreneurship as a way of empowering young generations. Shared value initiatives also extend to providers of financial services, as is the case of Visa. The enterprise’s efforts concentrate on financial inclusion by facilitating the delivery of aid payments to conflict-affected areas, allowing, in turn, the outspread of their products among hard-to-reach populations.

Finally, the Australian bank Bendigo is an excellent example of how a firm can empower a community while also increasing its returns. Its Community Bank program provides financial services to underserved communities and allows members to freely manage and reinvest a share of the earned revenue. Today, the program counts almost one million clients in 300 community-led branches across Australia and has “generated $23.8 billion in business and $1 billion in revenue, reinvested $110 million in communities, and posted average growth rates of 18 percent over the past five years”. With these encouraging results, more and more companies and organizations, such as ChangeLabs in Australia, are joining the Australian Shared Value Project and the global Shared Value Initiative, which intend to spread the concept of shared value both locally and internationally.

Unite and Strengthen

It is now time for other companies to follow these inspiring examples and strive for the attainment of positive results for their businesses and the community. The public sector and NGOs must not be left alone in the post-2015 framework. The role of the private sector in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals is crucial and, hopefully, more and more firms will understand the importance and benefits of their social commitment in solving urgent issues. CYFI urges companies and financial service providers to develop, inter alia, social programs with a special focus on education, gender equality and the empowerment of children and youth through financial inclusion and financial education. Now more than ever, we need to unite and find our “shared values” in order to improve social, environmental and economic livelihoods and achieve a status quo where the private sector and society can not only coexist, but also complement and strengthen each other.

This blog is the third in a series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and are authored by youth interns at Child & Youth Finance International. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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