“In the past, when I had money in my hand, I just go out and spend, but now whenever I get money, I just run and come here to save it.” – Lenege girl saver
The next stop in our youth savings journey was Ethiopia, with our network member PEACE MFI S.CO, as part of YouthStart, a UNCDF initiative established in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation. After conducting extensive market research as we had done in Mongolia and the Dominican Republic, Women’s World Banking collaborated with PEACE MFI S.CO to develop a youth savings program that matched the needs of low-income youth in the country. While accounting for the unique needs of youth in each country and of the institution, we take the following approach to youth savings program design:
- Youth-controlled or inclusive savings account,
- Integrated, action-oriented, and ongoing financial education,
- Youth-friendly marketing and outreach strategies, and
- Institutional alignment around youth savings.
Once the initial program design work was complete, PEACE MFI S.CO piloted the Lenege</i rel=”nofollow”> (“For Tomorrow”) youth savings program in December 2011 to semi-rural in-school and out-of-school youth, and then began a phased roll-out to its remaining branches throughout 2012. PEACE MFI S.CO branch staff also delivers complementary financial education to in-school and out-of-school youth as part of this program. In addition, from October 2012-February 2013, PEACE MFI S.CO piloted Lenege to married, rural girls in Amhara, in partnership with the Population Council’s “Meserete Hiwot” Program for Married Adolescents in Ethiopia. Participants and graduates of the program—which consisted of mentor-facilitated weekly groups covering a comprehensive livelihoods curriculum (reproductive health, gender, HIV/AIDS, sanitation, and more)—were linked to the Lenege account and complementary financial education. Results to date
- Nearly 9,000 youth have opened Lenege accounts
- 45% of accounts opened by girls
- Over 13,000 participants in financial education
- In-school youth have opened more accounts than out-of-school youth, though out-of-school youth use their accounts more actively.
- Average account balances between boys and girls within segments (in/out-of-school) are similar in size.
- Lenege has been rolled out to all PEACE MFI S.CO branches nation-wide
Reaching Girls The pilot with the Population Council established an effective service model for reaching vulnerable girls that can be replicated to other organizations. However, reaching girls continues to be a challenge. We recommend that PEACE MFI S.CO:
- Approach, convince, and educate entire family,
- Engage female staff for outreach and recruitment in field, and
- Conduct outreach in areas of high concentrations of girls.
Lessons Learned We have also learned some lessons whose application can go beyond PEACE MFI S.CO’s product offering:
- Accepting school IDs and facilitating access to account opening requirements can minimize barriers for youth and reduce unnecessary costs,
- Establishing collection points in rural areas, which overlaps with loan operations when possible, encourages regular account activity,
- The free savings lockbox distributed to youth helps them to accumulate lump sums and reduces transaction costs for the branch, and
- Developing and following up on a savings plan at transaction touch points helps to motivate youth and encourage deposits.
What’s next for Women’s World Banking’s and youth savings? We are currently in the initial stages of youth savings program development with partners in Nigeria and India. I look forward to providing more updates in time for next year’s International Youth Day!