October 10, 2016
WomenStrong International, a consortium of non-profit organizations in five nations supporting women-driven solutions to extreme urban poverty, announced today that it is launching a savings program for 7,000 adolescent girls through its Consortium member partner DHAN Foundation .
DHAN has helped girls organize more than 500 Adolescent Girls’ Clubs in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city of Madurai over the last 18 months and expects to double that number in the coming year. Girls in the Clubs choose their leaders and decide, with adult guidance, what they’d like to do. They receive education in hygiene and health, absorb good values and are encouraged to stay in school and to work toward their dreams of the future.
All 7,000 girls in the Clubs have been screened for anemia, a leading cause of maternal mortality and low-birthweight babies. More than 87% of those tested were found to be anemic, about a quarter of them severely anemic; all were guided by DHAN to government clinics where they received free medication and treatment.
Now, in conjunction with the United Nations’ 5th Annual International Day of the Girl,the Clubs, each comprising 15-20 girls between 10 -18 years of age, will form their own microfinance savings groups modeled on those run by women participants in DHAN’s unique Self-Help Group program, known by the Tamil word Kalanjiam .
Over the last 25 years, DHAN has promoted the creation of 41,000 Kalanjiam in villages and urban slums, supporting more than 600,000 families in their efforts to climb out of extreme poverty. With each woman saving roughly 100-200 rupees per month, these Kalanjiam collectively have saved $110 million over this time period and have leveraged that into $90 million in loans.
Decisions within Kalanjiam are bottom-up, demand-driven and develop members’ capabilities that translate into higher, sustainable incomes. The same systems will be used within the Adolescent Girls’ Clubs – although use of loans will be restricted to supporting the girls’ nutrition and education.
“The world’s 1.1 billion girls are part of the largest girl generation in history, a vibrant generation that can take on the future of Madurai, India, and the world, but only if we make sure they are safe, educated and healthy,” said Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, founder and executive director of WomenStrong International. “DHAN’s Adolescent Girls’ Clubs promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights and potential.”
Within the global development community, and driven by the United Nations, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, there is a push to collect and analyze girl-focused, sex-disaggregated data to inform policy and program decisions. Such data allow governments and non-governmental organizations to identify challenges and opportunities, measure and track progress, and understand how girls are faring globally against the gender equality targets in the Sustainable Development Goals.
DHAN Foundation has been collecting highly detailed data on all its programs for decades, and WomenStrong International is focused on assisting all its Consortium members develop similarly robust data collection systems for their programs in Ghana, Haiti, Kenya and Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, young girls in the slums of Madurai will be observing the International Day of the Girl with competitions, songs, small parties and big plans for how they’re going to use the rupees saved to build their future.