At the end of 2021, we launched a call for new ITL proposals across our global country programmes. All projects that were put forward had to focus on addressing one of the following two areas, where we identified a significant need and real potential for targetted innovation and learning.
- FOCUS AREA 1: Testing innovative microcredit models that build resilience to climate-related shocks and stresses.
- FOCUS AREA 2: New models to support women’s economic empowerment
Nine projects were put forward by country teams across Christian Aid's global programmes. After a panel evaluation, two were selected to be brought on board in 2022, pending the funds to deliver them being secured. A summary of these projects is outlined below.
Climate Resilient Microfinance in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Microfinance is very established in Bangladesh but evidence indicates there are some serious failings in current approaches. The key issue is that microfinance is failing to take account of climate risks and also the gender dynamics of debt. The result is that for some communities it is having quite the opposite effect to what was intended - increasing their vulnerability and leading to a situation where they lose their assets and livelihoods and get trapped in a cycle of debt. A new approach is urgently needed.
Working on demand and supply side issues, with both microfinance providers and beneficiaries, this project seeks to develop and implement a transformative approach to microfinance provision. The project aims to integrate climate change and gender considerations in every step of the process, and as result meet the needs of borrowers in a much more effective way than anything that is currently available. The project also seeks to mitigate the impact of climate risks in the lending process, for example through use of safety nets, and to influence policymakers and other key stakeholders in the microfinance sector to drive broader change across Bangladesh. If successful, the impact of this project on the microfinance sector, and most importantly on the people it seeks to help, could be huge.
Women's Economic Empowerment in Sierra Leone
70% percent of the population in Sierra Leone live below the poverty line, with women being particularly badly affected. Driving growth in Sierra Leone requires more people to be brought into the formal financial system. At present, less than 15% of the country has access to a bank account. The financial needs of rural areas, and in particular rural women are remaining severely unaddressed. This project seeks to address this gap.
This project will take adopt a holistic approach to women's economic empowerment in Sierra Leone - introducing mobile money (which is in its early stages in the country and has failed to penetrate rural areas), strengthening credit and savings unions and using them as vehicles of women’s economic empowerment and providing training and coaching for women in business and leadership. In addition we will be working with government, academic organisations and private sector actors to build a compelling evidence base to leverage support and wider change, and developing a clear understanding of how to use women's financial inclusion as a powerful lever for advancing gender equality across Sierra Leone.
We are incredibly excited about these projects and their transformative potential. However these projects are wholly funded by ITL supporters and cannot start until we have sufficient funds secured, so we need your help to make them possible.
We are just finalising these projects as we speak. Detailed project factsheets will be available by the end of January and summaries on the projects are available already, so if you would like to hear more please just get in touch as we would be love to hear from you.