Over the past four years, I have been lucky to see how access to financial services can empower youth in different ways. On my last trip to Rwanda, I had the pleasure of meeting Musafiri Ildephonse, a young man who—thanks to a RF50,000 (US$73.50) loan from Umutanguha Finance Ltd.—bought a dugout canoe to transport people daily on the Mukungwa River. Through this business, Musafiri is able to support his younger sister, attend school, and manage a small farm he started where he is raising 10 piglets. However, the effect that access to financial services has on youth empowerment is not always so straight forward. For example, I was once in a slum in Kampala with a group of adolescent girls who each opened a Teen Classic savings account at Finance Trust Bank. To my surprise, the girls withdrew all of the money from their account at the end of each month! After further discussion, the girls finally shared that the only reason for opening the savings account in the first place was to save money to buy sanitary napkins at the end of the month. Examining how to effectively understand these behaviours and stories from youth was one of the main themes discussed during today’s workshop.
Today, 20 talented young clients from Umutanguha joined us at the Umubano Hotel in Kigali to share their own stories. To be prepared to delve as much as possible into the stories of these youth, Global Learning Partners trained us on how to use the interviewing method ’appreciative inquiry . The appreciative interview method can be used to start with stories that best represent youth and to solicit details about those stories to uncover aspects that youth value most about their lives and communities.
These stories, which are based on real-life experiences, opened the doors to discovering new ways in which access to financial services has impacted the lives of the 18 youth that visited us. Saving as little as 20,000 RWF (22 euros) in a couple of months helped Zubeda, a 18-year-old woman, to feel more confident and less stressed about her future. Before joining the programme at Umutanguha, Ildephonse, a 20-year-old young boy, never dreamed of being able to overcome his debts and grow his own transportation business. Denise a 20-year-old girl, felt glad she had participated in this programme, her savings and later her small loan allowed her to grow potatoes, with the revenue she is now able to meet her basic needs without having to turn to her parents. Opening a savings account and developing his first business with a loan made Patient feel proud, confident and become ambitious. So ambitious that he is studying finance and dreaming of becoming Minister of Finance. For Diane who manages a business selling spare car parts, the services provided by Umutanguha are affordable and accessible. Her future dreams are closer to coming true thanks to the support from Umutanguha.
In an effort to better understand the impact of these services on young people, YouthStart is partnering with MicroSave to conduct a research study in Ethiopia and Togo. The results of the study, available in April 2015, will help us learn more about the effects of our programmes on the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours of youth. However, even without the results of the study and just through participation in today’s session, I can say with confidence that the experiences of these 20 young people are a huge source of inspiration to continue our work going forward.