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Girls in Uganda have reason to hope for a better future! FINCA StarGirls!
Category: Microcredit | By CMC-2011, 9-Oct-2012 | Viewed 3532  Comments 0
In Uganda, girls as young as age 10 can now save money they earn safely and responsibly through FINCA's StarGirls program, helping to ensure they can afford the education they need for a brighter future. Launched as a pilot program in 2009, StarGirls has proven so successful that there are now 2,100 girls enrolled in the program, who have saved an average of $8 each, with a number of accounts reaching $40. 

The StarGirls savings program grew out of FINCA's 27-year history of empowering women through FINCA's Village Banking groups, which are rooted in trust and responsibility to one another. Just like their older counterparts in Village Banking groups, StarGirls are forming friendships based on shared experiences and dreams, and learning from each other as well as from the FINCA field officers who teach them financial literacy, self-esteem and planning for the future.

Empowering Young Women to Reach for Their Dreams

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Star Girls
In many districts of Uganda, the rate of girls' enrollment in school remains less than 50%. Parents blame the high costs of school fees, books and supplies for choosing to educate their sons over their daughters. Here as in other developing countries, girls from poor families who drop out of school often have to work in the fields or in their parents' businesses to help support their families. Many face a lifetime of poverty.

But 2,100 Ugandan girls as young as 10, who save their allowances or earn money by fetching water or doing chores, can now save this money safely and responsibly through FINCA's unique program, StarGirls. Supported by The MasterCard Foundation, the program is helping to ensure they can afford the education they need for a brighter future. 

Upon entering the program, girls are given durable and lockable kaboxi (piggybank), to store their savings until they are ready to deposit the money. The girls can open accounts either during their regular group meetings or at a FINCA branch. They can deposit any amount of money at any time and can access their money whenever they want. 

During weekly meetings at schools, churches, or in the homes of trusted local leaders, FINCA field officers instruct the girls on how to manage their money and save for the future. FINCA has developed a financial literacy curriculum, with creativity and fun in mind, gearing the lessons to girls ages 10-14 and 15-19. Meetings blend vocational training (cooking, sewing, hair styling etc.), open discussions with arts and crafts projects, as well as singing and dancing.

The combination of fun, friendship and important life lessons has proven irresistible to the girls. The workshops also encourage the girls to build their social networks and self-esteem. The financial skills StarGirls learn as part of the program will prepare them to handle money responsibly, save for the future, and build their own businesses or embark on other careers.

When a young girl is able to earn and save money to meet her financial goals - like helping to support her family or attending school - it can work wonders for her self-esteem. Just knowing that she can achieve these goals all on her own can give her the confidence she needs to become a leader in her family and, perhaps, one day in her community.

October 11, 2012 is the International day of the Girl. On this day, just like any other day, we hope you will celebrate the lives of girls and young women and all they represent for the future of our world.

Please help us provide a hand-up to girls and women worldwide - visit www.FINCAcanada.org to find out how, or contact us at info@FINCAcanada.org.


Testimonials


"During a recent visit to Uganda, I met with this StarGirls group, in a district of Kampala. These young girls had been meeting every week for the past two years to receive financial education and vocational training, participate in mentoring activities, and to add money to  their StarGirls' accounts. It was amazing to see the bond they had created, and how much they enjoyed meeting and learning new skills. Most importantly, it was amazing to hear that  they all had big plans for the future: going to university, starting a business, buying a plot of land or a home, or sending their siblings to school. It was so inspiring!" - Stephanie Emond, FINCA Canada Manager

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*StarGirl* thinking about her strengths and opportunities – a StarGirl SWOT exercise!
"*StarGirl* thinking about her strengths and opportunities - a StarGirl SWOT exercise!"

Sarah Namubiru, the proud, fourteen-year-old chairperson of the Mawanga StarGirls group.


Paying for school fees has always been a challenge for her family, so Sarah has made putting small amounts of money into her StarGirls account a priority. Once a month, she deposits savings from her breakfast and lunch money into her account at the local FINCA branch. "I have learned that, for one to save, you don't have to have a lot of money. You can save, no matter how small an amount it may be. I am trying to save for my future studies so that I will not have to stop going to school, because we don't have money for fees."

Lydia Nakkuba, a 19 year-old in her final year of secondary school


Lydia was one of the first girls to join the program in 2009 as part of the Bright Angels group. Before StarGirls, Lydia had trouble keeping her stepmother from taking the little money she was able to save from her allowance. But by keeping her money in the lockable kaboxi (piggybank) she received through StarGirls, Lydia was able to greatly increase her savings. When her father could not pay Lydia's school fees for the most recent semester, her savings proved vital. In fact, they allowed her to pay her school fees herself. Lydia says that "StarGirls has taught me how to save, so I can achieve my dreams. I want to finish school, construct small houses for rent and own a small store. Now I know I can do that."

Sharifah and her sister Hamidah


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Sharifah and her sister Hamidah
Sharifah, 18, and her sister Hamidah, 19, joined FINCA's StarGirls program in 2010. Before entering the program, the sisters couldn't afford to attend school. They dropped out and began working at their mother's market. The more food they helped their mother cook and serve, the more money they earned to support themselves and the family's four other children. When the sisters joined StarGirls, they began putting part of this money away in savings accounts. Just the ability to save money frequently and securely has made a world of difference in the girls' lives. Sharifah now runs her own business selling fruit and soda to customers who come in during the lunch hour, so she can bring in extra money for her family and help cover her ailing father's medical bills. Though she still works at their mother's market, Hamidah is now planning to finish high school and continue her studies at a university someday soon with the money she has been able to save.
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