Financial inclusion is where individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs and are delivered in a sustainable way. Financial inclusion for women is a key enabler in reducing poverty and boosting prosperity. Here at Cufa, we focus on the most disadvantaged rural communities where we find women need the most assistance and thus, many of our programs focus on providing them financial products, training and education, forming the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
What is financial Inclusion and how does it help women?
Obtaining access to a bank account is the first step towards financial inclusion. This access facilitates day-to-day living and helps both families and businesses plan for the future. As an account holder, people are more likely to begin using other services like loans and insurance, expanding their earning potential by investing in business, education and risk management. Great strides have been made worldwide with 1.2 billion people gaining a bank account since 2011 and now 69% of adults have a bank account. However, there are still over 1 billion women that are unbanked.
Why is it important to empower women with financial inclusion?
Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make vast contributions to economies whether it is in business, agriculture, as entrepreneurs or in unpaid work such as care at home. Basically, when more women work, economies grow. It is estimated that gender gaps can cost an economy over 15% of GDP.
How does Cufa provide women with financial inclusion?
Many of Cufa’s programs focus on empowering women. The Female Financial Empowerment program in Myanmar has a sole focus on providing financial inclusion for women through support, financial services and business skills. Members gain access to a savings account and microfinance and are taught financial literacy and a variety of business skills alongside a leadership skills workshop.
Pisey Chhom is a fifteen year old girl living in Svay Rieng province. She has been lucky enough to learn a range of financial literacy skills in a fun and engaging way through Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program. Pisey hopes she can use her knowledge from the program to help her achieve her goal of reaching university!
She is part of a large family with two brothers and a sister along with her parents who work selling groceries in their store. Pisey is currently studying in grade eleven at her local high school which is a ten minute bicycle ride from her house. The dream Pisey currently has is to become an engineer and thus she is studying all science related subjects as part of her education.
Previously, Pisey paid little attention to saving her money. She received a small allowance of 1000 riels ($0.35) a day to take to school. This would usually be spent on snacks or toys as Pisey have any savings goals. She started working with her parents in their store and began to notice how hard they would work. In addition to working at the stall, her parents also sold much of their produce at the markets including the chickens and pigs that they farm.
Four years ago Pisey joined the Children’s Financial Literacy program and learnt a range of savings skills that will help her later in life. She asked her mother to buy her a piggy bank which she started using religiously. Now Pisey earns more money thanks to her work tutoring younger students and busking. She is able to use the savings skills that she learnt from Cufa project officers and has been able to save up for some new stationery and study material for school and even a bicycle.
“My father encouraged me to save after reading the program workbooks and even empowered me by opening an account with our local credit union to help.” Pisey described. She now has over $650 saved in this account and everyone in the family has opened one.
Pisey’s father had to say of her journey, “I hope the money she saves every day will help her to study and in reaching university and achieving her big dream.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has taught over 100,000 disadvantaged students across Cambodia and Myanmar about developing improved savings habits in a fun and engaging way.
Cufa’s LEED program teaches disadvantaged rural villagers business skills, with a focus on businesses for people with disabilities. Thanks to the program, Meun Ith has been able to build a successful motorbike repairs business completely changing his life.
Meun grew up in rural Cambodia and stopped studying at a young age to help his parents work. Unfortunately, when Meun was young a tree fell on him, breaking his leg and leaving him with a lifelong disability. He now lives in Kompong Chhang province, central Cambodia with his wife and two sons.
Due to his limited education, Meun was working as a mechanic earning a modest income. He had the opportunity to learn some skills in this position, however, he lacked the crucial business knowledge to make more money from these skills.
Meun started his small motorbike repair business in April 2018. He did this with a small plot of land and an initial investment of $500. While first starting his business he encountered many challenges such as having no budget and lacking the proper electronic tools.
Meun joined Cufa’s LEED program shortly after and was selected as a target beneficiary for the program. This allowed him to receive special training and business consultation. Hence, Meun was able to develop a business work plan and gain skills in many business concepts. He also received new electronic tools from the program. The business began to grow very quickly due to this help, as did Meun’s confidence.
Currently, Meun is earning around $8 a day from his business, managing to save around $3 of this. Moreover, he has been able to budget wisely for his daily expenses like food, but his most important cost is his son's education. His improving business has led to a much better living standard. Looking towards the future, Meun would like to extend his store and start selling beverages as well for extra income.
He had to say, “I want to thank Cufa so much for providing significant support to my business in the community”
Do you want to make a difference for someone less fortunate these holidays? Find out why you should donate to Cufa today!
At Cufa, our programs focus on providing sustainable change within communities, a hand up, not a handout. We supply the most disadvantaged people the tools to break the poverty cycle.
Cufa’s work focuses on alleviating poverty through economic empowerment. We teach young people the importance of saving, empower women to gain financial access, provide employment services, help finance and train rural entrepreneurs and much more!
We have reached over 4 million people each year through our programs and our results show the impact that we have had on developing communities.
For each $1 of donor funds we create $12.33 of social value and over a 1.75 year period Cufa created over $30 million of social value in the form of jobs, businesses, community-owned banks and much more.
Some of our programs have performed exceptionally with some of these examples including:
Village Entrepreneur - $28 of social value for each $1 invested
Bougainville Youth Project – $13,530,299 social value created
SRIRI Project – 707 people employed
Credit Union Development Cambodia - 21 credit unions formed
Credit Union Development Timor-Leste - $266,456 total community savings
Our success stories
We have seen countless unique stories about the way in which Cufa has had a life-changing impact on people’s lives. All of these stories are special and portray the importance of different aspects of our work.
Make a life-changing contribution these holidays and give someone less fortunate a much needed helping hand!
As a man who could not read or write and lacked the critical skills to find employment, Chek Chin was struggling to make ends meet with his family. Basic necessities like food, healthcare and his children’s education were an ongoing struggle until he found out about Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program.
It all started when he noticed his neighbour’s chicken farming business excelling. His neighbour was a participant in Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program. This led Chek to go to his local community-owned bank to sign up for sponsorship.
Initially, Chek started off the program by setting up a chicken farm. However, once he had developed his chicken farm, he started a second business building and selling cement stairways. This business was very successful because of the large amount of raised houses in Cambodia.
Recently, Chek was determined to have a sustainable business by Cufa project officers. Throughout the program, Cufa project officers gave Chek assistance and guidance, with quarterly field trips to see successful businesses, one-on-one support and more. Thanks to this, Chek not only was able to learn how to make good quality stairs and effectively farm chickens but also gained a strong understanding of market assessments, business admin and chicken food production.
Chek now has a quarterly income of $943.74 but that did not come without challenges. Throughout the program, his biggest challenge was the competition from other local chicken farms. However, starting a second business to differentiate helped his income. Additionally, consistently promoting his business and maintaining customer relationships meant that this issue was easily overcome.
He had to say to his sponsor, “Many thanks, I appreciate your kind support. My businesses have developed well and I now have a great workplace. I now have enough cement stairways, chickens and materials to sustain my family and businesses in the long-term.”
At the beginning of November, Cufa held a small business workshop event in Roka Village, Svay Rieng province, Cambodia. The event hosted participants that included, women and people with disabilities. The participants strengthened their capacity to share knowledge about key successful business methods. It also gave them the opportunity to discuss and learn about each other's personal achievements. Consequently, it has provided local communities with the chance to expand their rural business development knowledge.
The workshop was part of Cufa’s LEED program that focuses on increasing the incomes of rural community members through small business development. It provides education in both areas of business skills development and agricultural activities.
LEED project officer Chanthy Chhoeun hosted the day. He spent a large portion of it working through the main points. These were:
- Identifying the largest challenges of businesses and their solutions
- Discussing the key points that have helped successful businesses to excel
- How to manage a budget for a small business
The day also had a visit from a guest speaker, Mey Moa. Mey started his own business, a grocery store, in 2014 with minimal experience and a small loan. He inspired the crowd with his story and explained how he had recently opened a second business, a beauty salon. Mey was able to change his life and is now a very well respected and successful businessman in his village. Thus, much of his success he says is thanks to working hard, developing his business skills and showing solidarity with his family.
After the event participants left with their knowledge improved in multiple areas of business management and development. It was a very helpful forum to share experiences and ask questions. Moreover, many participants were excited to start putting into practice some of the skills including developing a business plan and budget. There will be many extremely busy businesses in the near future with harvesting season around the corner.
Chanthy said of the event, “It was great they could learn how to start a small business with small capital and develop many skills. It has also been important to discuss how to operate your business together as husband and wife.”
Sam Pholirak is a young boy living in Cambodia who had not developed very good spending habits. He often asked his parents for money to take to school and spent it on toys, snacks and other small items without knowing how hard his parents worked to make their money. After attending Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program he has improved savings habits and gained a better appreciation for the hard work of his parents.
Sam lives in Boeng Village, Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia with his family – his parents, two siblings and aunt. He is currently studying in Grade 7 at the local secondary school and his put little thought towards his future. His parents work as farmers, growing rice, chickens and pigs, earning enough to save a small amount each month.
He did not know the value of money and wasn’t aware of needing it for emergencies. Sam’s aunt had previously given him 4000 riels ($1.36) a week to take to school. She said “I am now 56 and am beginning to develop health problems so I cannot work as much. I am on the committee for our local community-owned bank so could suggest for him to open a bank account.”
2015 was when Sam first received his Children’s Financial Literacy education. He asked his mother if she could buy him a piggy bank to start using to commit to his savings. It wasn’t long before Sam had saved up enough money to buy himself a bicycle. “After I learnt about savings at school and showed my aunt the lesson book she was very encouraging and now I have saved for a bike,” Sam said.
His mother continues to give her children 2000 riel ($0.68) to take to school as pocket money. She encourages them to save as much as they can. “I want Sam to finish university, so I always encourage him to study hard. I hope the money he saves every day will help him to achieve this goal,” she describes.
Sam is now very optimistic about the future. His ability to create savings goals and knowledge of financial literacy has given him more independence and increased his interest in his education.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program teaches disadvantaged students across Cambodia and Myanmar about developing improved savings habits in a fun and engaging way.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has recently reached the milestone of teaching over 100,000 students.
The program was first started in 2008 as a fun and engaging way to teach financial education to disadvantaged students. Cufa has been able to grow the program immensely in the past few years. It has expanded from Cambodia to Myanmar, growing the number of children reached. Cufa has also worked together with Teachers Mutual Bank and CPA Australia to develop the program further with CPA Australia helping develop the Count4Kids app.
The program encourages students to set both short and long-term goals and hence, we continue to witness a multitude of success stories such as Samnang, who maintains aspirations of studying to become an engineer in Cambodia.
The growing success of the program has seen 66% of participants actively saving over the past 3 years. Alongside this, there has been a 236% increase in savings per child over that same time period. In the past 1.75 years, Cufa has educated over 22,500 students with over 1000 lessons. As a result, the growth and development of the program is constantly increasing.
Read about the vast impact that the program and Cufa’s work has on children in our recent Social Return on Investment report.
The success of the program doesn’t stop with the children educated. The student's families also benefit from their participation in the program as they are provided access to community-owned banks. Consequently, they can gain financial services like a savings account and access to finance in the form of business loans.
Over 100,000 students have been imparted the tools to develop lifelong savings habits at a young age thanks to the program. Therefore, many have been able to steer clear of poverty using these financial tools. We hope to reach many more to provide this opportunity in the future!
Find out more about the amazing Children’s Financial Literacy program.
Previously in the year, we spoke with Saren Koh from our Livelihood Enhancement for Economic Development (LEED) program in Cambodia. We recently caught up with Saren to see how she was progressing in the program.
Saren is a 31-year-old mother of 2 living in Krampong Chnang province. Initially, like many in Cambodia, Saren primarily worked as a farmer. However, with an initial loan of $200, she was able to start her own welding business primarily focused on roofing. Over time she developed more skills from the LEED program for her business and this has allowed her to expand. She now does welding for a larger amount of customers building roofs, doors, balconies, frames and much more.
We asked Saren a few questions about how LEED is improving her livelihood!
How have you been improving your business? We have built relationships and networked with relatives, villagers and other businesses. We saw the market demand and plan to continue to expand networking with builders both inside and outside our community.
What progress has your business made? Our income has been increased by a large amount. Welding iron is a great business as there are many people that need your services. People like villagers, builders and even schools need items like roofs, doors and windows.
How has your life changed for you and your family? We have had a significant change in our lives. I have better business skills, more income and have built confidence in doing business. My family has also benefitted greatly as we are much more involved in the community now and I can send my children to school.
The LEED program strengthens the economic development and improves the lives of disadvantaged Cambodians, particularly women and those with disabilities. This is achieved through education, vocational training and financial inclusion.
Cufa project officers provide training through theory and real practice for business skills and development. Participants are also provided financial literacy lessons and connected to a community-owned bank for financial services. This is all done with the aim of successfully improving the livelihood of villagers across rural Cambodia.
Find out more about Cufa's LEED program.
Samnang Sum is studying in grade six at Udom Sorya Primary School in Takeo province, regional Cambodia. As a participant of Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) program, Samnang has been able to change his financial habits. He has opened a savings account and is making contributions with a goal. He is aiming to support his education and become an engineer in Cambodia.
Samnang is the oldest son in a family of five. As the oldest, he does most of the housework. These duties include taking care of the animals and cleaning when his parents are not home. Due to this, his father, who works as a local vet, gives him 1500 Riels ($0.50 AUD) a day to take to school.
Initially, before Samnang was taught by the CFL program, he liked spending this money on snacks and toys, without thinking about how hard his parents worked to provide him with this money.
The CFL program taught Samnang about managing his savings and developing a short and long-term goal. It also assisted in him opening a savings account with his local village savings bank. Cufa project officers use a variety of mediums to teach financial literacy ranging from workbooks and tablets in school to home visits to reinforce the lessons and check the progress.
Due to the CFL program, Samnang has been much more attentive to his savings. He better understands the value of money and how hard his parents work to earn for their family. Consequently, he has been able to save around $200 USD in his savings account over the past 2 years. Now Samnang has made his long-term savings goal to save up enough money to pay for a tertiary education to become an engineer in Cambodia!
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has taught over 90,000 children since its inception. In the past 3 years, 66% of participants have been actively saving. Since the CFL program started in 2008, the average monthly savings from each child has increased by 236% from $0.89 to $2.99.