Youth Who’ve Experienced Poverty Delve Into Finance

Reporting by ChildFund Philippines, ChildFund The Gambia and Lloyd McCormick, Global Youth Development & Livelihood Technical Advisor

Arnyline is 15 and lives in the Philippines. Saffiatou, 17, lives in The Gambia. What could they possibly have in common?

A few things, actually. They both live in extreme poverty. They are both involved in ChildFund’s programs in their countries. Neither had ever traveled outside of their countries — until their recent, ChildFund-supported trip to Amsterdam.

What brought them there was another thing they have in common: their interest in the goals of Child and Youth Finance International  (CYFI), an organization whose stated goal is to ensure that 100 million children and youth in 100 countries have financial access and education by 2015. Founded last year by social entrepreneur Jeroo Billimoria, who also founded the social and financial education nonprofit Aflatoun, CYFI has a simple, audacious vision: “We dream that all children have a safe place to save their money, and that they can manage that money on their own.”

youth group

Participants bonded quickly.

From April 2-4 in Amsterdam, the first-ever CYFI Summit brought 70 children and youth representing 40 countries together with international bankers and policy makers from around the globe. During the event, participants focused on the topic of financial inclusion and finance education for children and youth. Young people also met to voice their opinions for shaping the Child and Youth Finance Movement. They then brought their recommendations to the Summit, which included representatives from the United Nations; the central banks of Europe, the U.S., Africa, Asia; donors such as MasterCard, CitiBank and Levi Strauss; and international and local organizations. The youth engaged directly with these policy makers on a level footing and shared their views on financial issues that most matter to them.

Arnilyne and Saffiatou were among the 10 participants selected to present the young people’s recommendations, which included the following:

  • Create awareness of youth finance
  • Provide financial education
  • Encourage youth-led enterprises
  • Create child-friendly banks
  • Create more equitable trade between developing and developed nations
  • Support mobile phone and Internet-based banking
two girls talking

Saffiatou takes time to get to know others.

“What excited me is that they care for children in the world, and they want all the children to have a better future,” says Saffiatou. “My favorite part was the discussion on child finance as a subject in school.”

Arnilyne also has a great interest in financial literacy education, but she’s not sure how it could be added to her school curriculum. “We have no funds for it,” she says. “I think it would be effective if trainings and activities are conducted for this.”

She’s particularly excited about the idea of a child-friendly banking system, which would give children access to banks and low-minimum initial deposits.

The two girls, who hail from the tropics, remarked on Holland’s cold climate. But they also noted the warmth of the people they met there, which they both cite as common ground with their home countries.

“They care for children in the world,” says Saffiatou, “and they want to see children as the good leaders of tomorrow.”

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