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Defying disability for financial inclusion

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NOT RELENTING—Kadzidye recites a poem

Lydia Kadzidye, 39, is an exceptional woman with disability in Kaponda Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwase in Kasungu District.

Kadzidye, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, has not only defied stigma and discrimination, but is also on the path to defeat economic challenges that characterised her family for years.

“I have opened a tailoring shop where I sew high quality products for sale in mobile markets. And since I cannot easily move from one market to the other, I have employed a young man who does the selling for me,” she says.

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Kadzidye is one of the members of KUU22Umodzi Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), which is being supported by Cumo Microfinance in partnership with Financial Access for Rural Markets, Smallholders and Enterprises (Farmse).

Cumo Microfinance is implementing Expanding Access to Training and Finance (Exact-Fin) project whose aim is to up-scale provision of pro-poor microfinance services to hard-to-reach areas through deepening of its reach in 18 existing districts, and further expanding reach to six new districts.

The six districts include Blantyre, Kasungu, Mwanza, Neno, Nkhata Bay and Mzimba.

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The project, which targets 44, 881 beneficiaries, is supporting both agriculture and micro enterprise as livelihood strategies among the heavily rain-fed agriculture dependent poor.

Cumo-Farmse Project Coordinator, Sophie Sikwese, says one of the major components of the project is to increase financial inclusion of persons with disabilities, especially women and girls.

Sikwese states that women and girls with disabilities often face double discrimination in the society.

“Women and girls with disabilities often face disproportionately high rates of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation. Hence, the desire of this project is to address such inequalities by providing accessible financial services that can enable them gain economic and financial independence, “she narrates.

Studies have shown that women and girls with disabilities are twice as likely to experience gender-based violence compared to women and girls without disabilities.

Unemployment rates are highest among women with disabilities. The United Nations estimates that 75 percent of women with disabilities are unemployed and women with disabilities who are employed often earn less than their male counterparts and women without disabilities.

Gender disparities also exist in education. While the overall literacy rate for persons with disabilities is three percent, Unesco estimates that it is just one percent for women and girls with disabilities.

Perhaps, because of the challenges they face, women and girls with disabilities are poised to be leaders within their communities and can greatly contribute to the economic development of their countries.

Therefore, inclusion of such vulnerable populations requires institutional buy-in and leadership from all levels of financial service providers.

An international financial think-tank, the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), estimates that there are more than one billion women globally, with the majority living in developing countries where they have no access to formal financial services.

AFI says there is need for governments and financial institutions to develop a policy and regulation that can help in tackling key barriers to women’s uptake of financial services and enhance women’s financial inclusion.

“In order to reach full financial inclusion, the financial services industry must address the financial needs of the world’s disabled poor. A great human rights struggle is penetrating the world of low-income finance,” says the institution.

Farmse Knowledge Management and Communications Officer, Golie Nyirenda, says the organisation was established with a primary objective of addressing poverty by boosting rural households’ financial literacy and access to financial resources.

Nyirenda says through its partners such as Cumo, the organisation provides grants and loans to households as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a focus on agricultural and food supply issues.

“The ultimate desire of Farmse is to increase access to and use of a wide range of sustainable financial services by rural households and micro, medium and small enterprises. Thus, we provide matching grants to our partners such as Cumo who are implementing various interventions aimed to bring financial services to rural communities where there are no conventional banking services and people travel long distances to access them,” she narrates.

The intervention has excited Kadzidye who dreams of owning a wholesale as well as a retail shop replete with assorted items.

Currently, she is making a profit of about K80, 000 in a month from her tailoring business.

Kadzidye is optimistic that this amount will triple when she injects in additional capital in her business.

“I have already submitted my business proposal to CUMO and I am just waiting for them to process my business loan,” she says.

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