Global Christian humanitarian organization World Vision and VisionFund International, its affiliated mission-driven microfinance institution, have launched the Strong Women Impact Fund. The fund works to address the gender gap in financial services for the most vulnerable around the world: rural women.
The Strong Women Impact Fund supports innovative financial products designed to serve clients at the bottom of the economic ladder as they work to build financial resilience, improve household well-being, and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. The fund will offer products to meet the needs of women in poverty-affected communities, support women clients in the development of their livelihoods, and help them to move toward economic well-being.
Globally, women represent immense potential yet face enduring obstacles, such as a nearly $320 billion deficit in access to credit, that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Nearly 1 billion women around the world still have no access to financial services. If this gender gap were closed, women could add an estimated $14 trillion to global GDP by 2030, according to studies. Studies have also shown that when women earn a competitive income, they spend most of their earnings on their families — a reinvestment that contributes to stronger, more resilient communities.
“We know that the best way to strengthen communities is by empowering women,” said Edgar Martinez, CEO of VisionFund International. “VisionFund is supporting the most vulnerable communities through access to capital, credit and financial services. Today, 80% of people living below the poverty line live in rural communities, and the majority of those people are women. VisionFund and World Vision know that to truly end extreme poverty, there must be an intentional focus on providing financial services for rural women, and the Strong Women Impact Fund is one of the key tools to bolster women’s economic opportunity.”
The Strong Women Impact Fund is a $100 million debt fund that offers investors the opportunity to catalyze significant change in the lives of women and their families. The fund prioritizes serving rural women in 24 countries across four regions. These countries have been strategically selected to align with World Vision’s 2030 business plans for economic empowerment and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), as well as VisionFund’s 2030 global strategy. World Vision’s WASH programming helps communities gain infrastructure and technical support to improve health and well-being, while their economic empowerment programming equips people with the knowledge and skills necessary to maximize business growth when they receive a VisionFund loan.
“The Strong Women Impact Fund allows me to invest in women around the world, equipping them with the skills they need to lift themselves and their families out of poverty,” said Lani Dolifka, founder and president of Clean Water Here. “Vision Fund and World Vision are committed to helping the most vulnerable among us — rural women — through training, support and micro-financing.”
The fund offers four major products to women borrowers: FAST loans, lone mother households loans, small business loans, and water loans. Additionally, embedded into each loan is HospiCash, a health insurance policy that covers clients and their families for no additional charge.
Another distinctive aspect of the Strong Women Impact Fund is that, due to an intentional gender lens, it meets four of the five 2X Challenge criteria:
- Leadership: The fund is managed and led by women, and women account for 38% of VisionFund’s board.
- Employment: 49% of VisionFund’s staff are women.
- Consumption: Fund products are designed to specifically benefit women.
- Investments through financial intermediaries: VisionFund International owns and operates 26 microfinance institutions across 28 countries.
The fifth criteria (entrepreneurship) is met by the fund’s borrowers, who are women entrepreneurs. Investments in the Strong Women Impact Fund will empower more than 200,000 women to achieve their potential, lift their families out of poverty, and help transform their communities into thriving ecosystems of innovation and growth.