Stockholm-based Ceremonies recognize enterprises that demonstrate innovation in financial, social and livelihoods education, inclusion and entrepreneurial support for children and youth worldwide.
Opportunity International proudly announces earning the acclaimed Civil Society Achievement Honor at the Children and Youth Finance International (CYFI) Global Inclusion Awards of 2016, held November 28 in Stockholm, Sweden.
The CYFI Awards were attended by more than 150 representatives from 45 countries, in order to celebrate global efforts at economically empowering young people. The Civil Society Achievement Award showcased Opportunity International’s enduring commitment to championing innovative operations in Uganda, titled ‘Opportunity Girls' Education Challenge,’ a drive which has fostered greater equality and financial empowerment through education.
Opportunity Girls' Education Challenge achievements include but are not limited to dynamically enhancing the state of autonomy and livelihoods of more than 93,000 young people since May of 2014, of which 56 percent are female and 84 percent are from households classified as “economically active poor,” achieving 138 percent of the program’s literacy target, as well as 70.9 percent of its numeracy target. Under this program, beneficiaries of School Improvement Loans showed 61 percent greater literacy improvements, compared to non-financed schools.
Nathan Byrd, Opportunity International’s Head of Education Finance, applauded the team that spearheaded this unique and impactful program. “This initiative serves the entire community and supports educational equality in Uganda through an inclusive approach to programming, rather than segregating our approach to treat girls and boys differently”, Byrd said. “The program was designed to be directly responsive to the major issues preventing these young women and girls from achieving economic empowerment and educational continuation, based on the idea that a rising tide lifts all ships. My hope is that our results to date will help us to further proliferate this powerful model of change.
“We are grateful for the commendation from CYFI and remain focused on overcoming the socioeconomic barriers to education and equality in Uganda and throughout the diverse climates in which we operate”.
The program’s success is not its most innovative feature, however. Fostering a link to a local financial institution, where such programs can be sustained in the long-term by bringing real value to the financial institution, turns this development program into a permanently-sustained social change mechanism.
The judges of the award summarized their thoughts on Opportunity International’s submission: “The Girls’ Education Challenge project is innovative in that it’s pushing the boundaries of education finance in Uganda, demonstrating how a sustainable, market-driven approach can meet the particular educational needs of marginalized girls. The increased portfolio scale achieved through the project has supported product-level sustainability, which will carry on well beyond the life of the project. The project helps to improve the financial capability and economic empowerment of young girls in Uganda. A positive side effect of this project is that teachers are also encouraged to save through the training sessions, in which they witness the success of Girls’ Club savings and parental savings.”
Global CEO Vicki Escarra says “We are overjoyed on being recognized as a champion of gender equality in education by Children and Youth Finance International. Our Education Finance leaders have developed an impactful program that enables private schools and impoverished households to give girls access to education. Education is a real game changer that can completely alter the destiny of families for generations to come.”
About Opportunity International
Opportunity International is a global non-profit organization that helps people in developing countries work their way out of poverty. Founded in 1971, the organization has provided more than $9 billion in loans to help clients launch and expand businesses, provide for their children and create jobs in their communities. At the end of 2015, more than 14 million clients in 24 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, were using an Opportunity International loan, savings account, insurance policy or training to improve their lives. The organization has set a goal of helping clients create or sustain 20 million jobs by 2020. Through its long history in developing microfinance and complementary products and services in education, agriculture and health, the organization has helped clients create 15.8 million jobs as of the end of 2015. More than 95 percent of Opportunity’s loan clients are women who would otherwise likely not have access to financial services because of legal and cultural gender inequities in many developing countries. The global headquarters of Opportunity International are in Chicago, with other key offices in Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The organization serves clients through a network of more than 20,000 people worldwide.