> Posted by Mary Dakim, Intern, Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities Program
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): 147 countries have signed it; 99 countries have ratified it; how many countries have implemented it?
I recently reviewed a study by the European Foundation Centre that analyzed how the European Union and its member states are implementing the UN CRPD. The report identifies challenges of full and effective implementation and aims to support the EU Disability Action Plan. Operationalizing a convention is clearly no easy task.
As a teacher, I understand how difficult it is to change behavior and to foster a link between an idea and action. During my internship at the Center of Financial Inclusion, I have also learned how much microfinance organizations are already being asked to do—a lot, and from all directions, from donors, investors, regulators, and governments, just to name a few.
The manager of the Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities Program pointed out that profit margins are already thin, that microfinance markets are growing saturated and more competitive, and that MFI leaders are being asked to do a lot beyond honoring their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.
She explained how important it is for the Center’s work on the topic of financial inclusion for persons with disabilities to be led with an honest recognition of the realities and tradeoffs MFI leaders and staff face in the field. No matter how strong the legal and moral case may be, she argued, the MFI leaders and practitioners will be less interested in prescriptive “should” statements and instead, might be willing to consider practical, specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic “how-to” suggestions and examples.
The program manager asked me, “If you were in an elevator with the following people, what would you ask or suggest that could lead to financial inclusion for persons with disabilities?”
While I have not worked in microfinance, and most of my “field work” experience was on my family farm, I understand poverty and disability personally. As I reflected on this question and brainstormed ideas with the program manager, I realized that the solutions could lie not only among microfinance and disability communities, but also beyond — maybe even schools. Here are a few ideas; I invite readers of this blog to leave a comment with their reactions:
The Counters: Could those of you who work in monitoring and evaluating the impact of microfinance and social performance start counting persons with disabilities? Don’t worry about new questions that will make your surveys long. As a start, could we simply add persons with disabilities among the answer options on surveys that already include women, ultra-poor, and rural populations? Could we also count how many employees, operational staff, and decision-makers along the microfinance value chain — investors, regulators, raters, loan officers, practitioners, and others — have disabilities?
MFI Partnership Manager: In addition to meeting with telecom companies, could those who explore and develop partnerships for microfinance organizations also meet with the leaders of organizations that serve persons with disabilities? Maybe such a relationship could help the MFI identify potential employees or better inform their understanding of the population to overcome prejudices or false assumptions regarding demand and capacity.
Disabled Person Organization CEO: Could you invite leaders in the financial services community to be on your board? Could you host a reception for the leaders of local banks and microfinance institutions in your community to learn more about your work and the relationships you hold with the local population of persons with disabilities? Could you offer free sensitivity trainings for financial service provider staff? Maybe an annual award to a financial service provider that has achieved some type of financial inclusion for persons with disabilities?
MFI Marketing Manager: Are your communications materials and marketing activities disability-inclusive? Can someone who is deaf or blind learn about your MFI? How?
Principal of School for Students with Disabilities: Could you organize a field trip to a local financial service provider or bank for your students?
MFI HR Manager: Are there any qualified persons with disabilities in your community you could consider for employment, an internship, or a volunteer opportunity?
Central Banker or Regulator: Are your financial regulations in alignment with the CRPD? Do any of your laws or policies exclude persons with disabilities from eligibility to participate fully in financial services and have equal access to products? Any updates to legal capacity you might consider?
MFI CEO: Could you discuss the implications of the CRPD at your next board meeting?
MFI Network: Could you host a workshop or plenary session at your annual conference on the topic of financial inclusion for persons with disabilities? Maybe include an article in your newsletter, website, or blog? Could you highlight the members of your network who already serve as clients or have employees who are persons with disabilities?
Microfinance Investor or Donor: Could you fund “how-to” research to understand how, where, and what type of financial inclusion commercial microfinance has reached in order to help diagnose the situation and deepen the understanding of root causes on the demand and supply side?
Persons with Disability: Will you visit a bank or microfinance institution as an individual or organize a group visit? Will you apply for products and services? Would you be willing to offer specific examples of reasonable accommodations that would help you be an active client?
Read other articles by Mary Dakim:
What to Do When the Mice Eat the Money, or, ‘Where Are the Non-subsidized Financial Services for Persons with Disabilities?’
Skepticism Surplus, Glamor Deficit? PWDs Battle Both in Quest for Financial Inclusion