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International development

Economic empowerment: A key condition for development

January 9, 2023

Economic empowerment refers to the ability to provide for yourself and the people who depend on you, and to decide how best to do so. 

The goal of economic empowerment is to enable people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to access and enjoy social and economic opportunities, so that in turn, they can contribute fully to their community's development and to their own personal development. 

Economic empowerment creates a domino effect with many benefits, not just for individuals but also for families, communities and entire countries. It reduces the financial vulnerability of women and men, and increases their ability to grow, take action, care for their loved ones and cope with unexpected events.

How do we strengthen economic empowerment?

The 3 key building blocks for economic empowerment are access to financial services, financial literacy and the power to act. These are the 3 areas that Desjardins International Development (DID) focuses on.

Adequate access to financial services

Financial inclusion is about providing secure and affordable access to the financial products and services people need and use every day: bank accounts, adapted payment methods, credit and savings products, insurance to protect wealth, and so on.

Sufficient financial knowledge

Financial literacy is about helping people develop the knowledge and skills they need to make informed financial decisions. It helps overcome the challenges of using financial products and services and encourages safe financial behaviours.

The ability to manage finances independently

Economic empowerment means having control over your finances and the ability to decide for yourself how to allocate your financial resources. When they're empowered, people can show leadership and improve their social and economic standing. 


The many faces of economic autonomy

"Our business is important because it creates jobs."

Leidy Zuluaga owns a wine and spirits shop and has a great problem: rapid growth! Fortunately, Leydi came across Banco Mundo Mujer, one of the 5 financial institutions that we supported in Colombia as part of the Graduar PYMES project in partnership with Global Affairs Canada. "I've done very well all the years I've worked with this institution. They helped me move things forward without me ever needing to ask. Our business is important because it creates jobs and helps the people who work with us to grow. In 5 or 10 years, I see myself founding another business that will create jobs for even more people!" 

Diversifying revenue streams

The objectives of the Agriculture and Rural Financing in Mali (FARM) project included the development and rollout of a wide-ranging financial literacy strategy aimed at helping women acquire the knowledge, skills and determination to make responsible financial decisions. Corn producer Habibata Diawara explains what financial literacy has done for her: "I learned that one of the ways farmers can avoid financial stress is to diversify income sources. So I adopted market gardening in addition to my existing corn production operation. The income from this side business helps me pay my bills and even save a little. I can now help my husband with family and farming business expenses." 

Improving personal and family living conditions

The Climate Adaptation and Economic Development of Haiti's Agricultural Sectors (AVETI) project aims to sustainably increase the value of cacao, yam and other crops mainly overseen by women to ensure their financial empowerment and food security for their families. The project also aims to develop innovative practices so crops are less impacted by climate change. Program participant Junia St-Louis explains: "Thanks to the project and the farmer field schools, I can improve my living conditions and those of my family. My husband is no longer the only one who brings something home. I can too. Now, with the crops I sell, I can buy uniforms for my kids."

Financial inclusion that makes a difference

Mobile tontines are a digital finance tool that allows people to accumulate savings using a mobile device. Users can make transactions securely (withdrawals, deposits, savings) without needing a physical point of service. "I like this service because I don't need to go anywhere and it's fast. With the tontine, I have access to credit and I pay it back with daily deposits. I've been able to help my children with their education thanks to my business and savings in the tontine. One of them started university in France and is now studying in Montreal," says Denise Tchaba, a mobile tontine user with the Support for Developing, Professionalizing and Revitalizing Microfinance (ADAPAMI) project in Benin.