Technical Resources (Research Reports, Findings, etc.):


Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth

Ecuador, Mali

In December 2009, Freedom from Hunger launched the Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth (AIM Youth) initiative—a $4.4 million partnership with The MasterCard Foundation.

Young people living in poverty are often expected to contribute financially to the household or support themselves before they have the resources or knowledge to do so effectively. Through the AIM Youth pilot program, Freedom from Hunger and local implementing partners provided access to financial services—primarily in the form of savings—and financial education to 40,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 24 in Mali and Ecuador. Through AIM Youth, Freedom from Hunger and its partners extended the impacts of integrated financial services to the “next generation” of microfinance clients, while deepening the impact for the families of current clients.

Freedom from Hunger is deeply committed to sharing what we learn with the rest of the community of practice. Research and documentation are shared with not only our partners around the world, but also with youth-serving institutions and the larger microfinance and development communities.

Innovations for Youth in Ecuador and Mali

In Ecuador, Freedom from Hunger worked with partners Cooperatives San José, San Miguel de los Bancos and Cooprogreso. Leveraging their local knowledge and experience allowed Freedom from Hunger to scale quickly, reaching almost 13,000 young people in Ecuador.

Youth in Ecuador, especially those in rural areas, are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to have regular employment. Those who do have jobs tend to work in low-production activities—often in family-run businesses, domestic service or microenterprise. Girls in Ecuador are particularly vulnerable to long-term poverty. One in five girls between the ages of 15 and 19 has had at least one pregnancy, causing many to drop out of school. The challenge facing boys is different, but no less difficult. Because there are few jobs in rural areas, Ecuador has one of the highest internal migration rates, with male adolescents moving into the cities in search of economic opportunity. Those who do not succeed in finding work sometimes turn to illegal and dangerous activities.

In West Africa, AIM Youth reached over 26,000 young people in Mali. Malian youth tend to live in rural areas, where potable water and electricity are rare. Freedom from Hunger’s local partners, Nyèsigiso, Tonus and CAEB (nongovernmental organizations) added their own resources and local expertise to support the outreach effort.

In Mali, a tradition of early marriage means that many adolescent girls are married and pregnant by the age of 19. Two-thirds of these young women and half of the young men are illiterate. Because poverty and chronic hunger are so widespread, sound money-management practices and the discipline of saving helped AIM Youth participants build and protect their assets.

Making the Transition to Adulthood

Financial education provides young people with the knowledge and skills to make better decisions about their money and to develop concrete plans for the future.

In both Mali and Ecuador, young people often turn to microenterprises to earn money. Freedom from Hunger’s proven learner-centered education was adapted to meet the needs of youth. New financial products, predominately savings, were designed and tested to teach participants how to manage their money, plan ahead and set aside savings. New financial products were designed and tested as part of the initiative. The combination of financial services and practical financial skills helped participants be more productive in their businesses and personal financial lives.