Financial inclusion of people with visual impairments, a red light for poverty
The nonprofit organisation (NPO) ‘Fundación Paraguaya’ is working together with ‘Ágora Paraguaya’ to develop a program for the financial inclusion and reintegration into the labor market of people with visual disabilities in Paraguay. Fundación Paraguaya’s strategy aims at enabling poor families through individual counselling and the provision of microcredits as well as entrepreneurial education to lift themselves out of poverty. During 2017, the project has been supported by the Lemonaid & ChariTea Foundation.
“The poor were not even invited to the banquet […] to the discussions about poverty.” (Martin Burt, Founder and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya)
Over the last years Paraguay’s economic development followed an upward trend that was based on increased exports of soy beans, beef and hydroelectricity. Overall poverty decreased but the landlocked country is still struggling to get a grip on poverty rates. At the same time, it has one of the highest inequality rates in Latin America. This means that only 6 percent hold a university degree and landownership is concentrated in the hand of few people. 80 percent of the fertile soils is owned by 2 percent of the population.
Against this backdrop Fundación Paraguaya has committed itself to fight against poverty. Moreover, with its strategy it aspires to be an inspiration for other organizations around the world. The NPO was founded in 1985 in light of the inability of the military dictatorship to address the widespread poverty. To counter the distrust of the government against its activities, Fundación Paraguaya made transparency and inclusivity their priorities. Today, almost 30 years after the fall of dictator Alfredo Stroessner in 1989 the working environment has improved and the organisation is able to work more freely.
Fundación Paraguaya carried out pioneering work in its efforts to eliminate multidimensional poverty. With the development of the ‘Poverty stop light method’ the organization created a strategy through which families are able to detect the different ways of poverty and permanently find ways out of it. By now the method is implemented by 50 organisations in 23 countries.
The pet project of Fundación Paraguaya are microcredits. In synergy with qualitative assistance and entrepreneurial education, these open realistic chances to escape poverty. The organization has 60.000 clients that are supported with microcredits and financial literacy. 87 Percent of the beneficiaries are women.
“We’ve always been concerned that microfinance is very important, but is not alone useful to help families to overcome poverty.” (Martin Burt)
Financial inclusion for people with visual impairments
Together with Ágora Paraguaya the organisation has dedicated a new project to the financial inclusion of people with visual impairments. In particular when it comes to access discrimination for the people is very high. At the moment only 1 percent of the beneficiaries of microcredit programs are people with handicaps. Another problematic is that even when institutions are open to include them, they are unprepared to offer the needed guidance according to the lived reality and the needs of people with visual impairments.
Ágora’s work is specialized at reintegrating people that have lost their eye sight or are suffering from severe visual impairments into the labor market. Fundación Paraguaya can look back at three years of experience in dealing with people with disabilities collected during a previous project. With their cooperation the current project aims to reach up to 200 participants. Fundación Paraguaya aims at having employees that went through a sensibility training in every of their 24 offices. Until now 26 staff members have been participating in the training given by Ágora. Manuals have already been translated to audio and braille. Moreover, they are also working on creating a new poverty stoplight app aligned to the needs of people with visual impairments that is to be released in February 2018.
The support of the foundation covers translation of information and teaching materials as well as the training costs of the employees. Together the two organisations want to level the field for people that are visually handicapped to found/or invest into their own microbusinesses.