In 2008, Women’s World Banking launched a youth savings program with XacBank (Mongolia) and Banco ADOPEM (Dominican Republic) sponsored by the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect initiative. These programs are designed to build the financial capabilities of youth through accessible savings products and complementary financial education. In September 2011, Microfinance Opportunities (MFO) completed its impact assessment study, “Savings and Financial Education for Girls in Mongolia,”and Women’s World Banking developed a summary brief of the study findings.

Research suggests that by serving a girl at the vulnerable crossroads of adolescence, development programs can have the greatest impact not only on that girl, but can empower her to be a catalyst for change in her family and community. Once that window of adolescence closes, we have lost the opportunity to impact a generation. According to market demand research conducted by Women’s World Banking, girls as young as 10 regularly accumulate money, actively manage it, and want a safe place to save it. However, financial institutions are traditionally oriented towards adults as customers and do not see youth as a viable target market.

One of Women’s World Banking’s objectives for the baseline and endline research in Mongolia was to evaluate changes across time for two groups: the girls and the institution serving them. For the girls, the Girl Effect theory of change held that building their financial capabilities would bring positive changes to their economic and social conditions and would also result in positive changes for their families and communities. For the financial institution, the expected outcome was that the bank would wish to continue and expand its youth-focused offerings and that its public image would be enhanced. For both groups, some elements of the theory of change were upheld; others were mixed. The girls experienced distinct gains in knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and shared their experiences with their peers, family, and community, but those gains seemed not to translate into hoped-for advances in life planning. The bank views youth accounts as a long-term investment worth making but has not found needed partners with specialized expertise in youth marketing.

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