Amelia KUKLEWICZ from the Grameen Foundation welcomed the panellists and opened the session by stressing the importance of paying attention to the unintended negative consequences of financial inclusion for clients and their households. This session focused on how FSPs can use the RICHES toolkit to mitigate these negative unintended consequences. She then provided an overview of the burdens experienced by women entrepreneurs in their role as caretakers and business owners, and how child protection has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic creating harmful working conditions and increasing child labour, particularly in poor and vulnerable households.
The results of a study conducted by the Grameen Foundation show that women experience pressure to balance caretaking and income generation. As a result, children are exposed to unsafe working conditions, take on caretaking responsibilities and do harmful work. Kuklewicz continued by presenting the relationship between business growth and harmful child labour, explaining the business characteristics that affect the risk of child labour.
Kuklewicz described the actors involved in Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) and their responsibilities. FSPs should identify and assess risks of harmful child work and harmful working conditions. This provides the opportunity to meet the financial investment and protection needs of women entrepreneurs. WEE actors can use the RICHES toolkit to build awareness and mitigate risks of unintended negative consequences of financial inclusion on three levels: Management-level of MFIs and investors; Field-level of MFIs; and Participant-level of clients and their households. A case study of CEVI, an MFI from the Philippines, illustrated that building the right structure within FSPs is essential to improve and adapt products and services that empower and educate their clients on WEE.
Kuklewicz gave the floor to Adetunji AFOLABI, from the Nigerian Microfinance Platform (NMP), to present his experience with the use of the RICHES toolkit to build awareness and mitigate risks. Afolabi stated that there is a significant lack of awareness on the unintentional negative effects financial inclusion can have. Furthermore, mechanisms and policies to identify and assess risks related to child protection were not in place. Using the RICHES toolkit, workshops were organized for MFIs and other NMP members from the financial inclusion sector to raise awareness on child labour and promote the implementation of child protection in their client protection practices.
Subsequently, Abel OVENSERI brought his perspective on how the RICHES toolkit provided a solution for the LAPO Microfinance Bank. Using the RICHES toolkit’s resources, the Bank’s upper management was trained to build awareness and understanding of child labour and harmful working conditions. He valued the robustness of the resources and the tools it offers to seek collaboration with relevant stakeholders at all three levels. The toolkit provided guidelines to map unintended negative consequences and steer the microfinance bank’s commitment to mitigate risks and improve its social performance management in a systematic manner. Ovenseri mentioned that in the next phase, the focus will be on digitizing the learning materials to expand the reach to staff and clients across Nigeria.
Edgar AGUILAR next presented the main objective of ILO’s Social Finance Programme aiming to support the financial sector to contribute to ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, addressing labour violations like child labour. The programme is working with policy-actors to develop and adapt child labour policies in national legal standards and regulations and with practitioners from the field to incorporate child protection in their client protection practices. The RICHES toolkit was useful in framing the policy agenda and integrating child protection practices with other fields. He stated that understanding and mitigating risks related to child labour and harmful working conditions has a commercial opportunity, helping financial inclusion sector actors to adapt their product and service portfolio to address clients’ needs and constraints. Aguilar also explained how the toolkit can be used by MFIs to report on their progress on responsible client protection practices.
Kuklewicz asked the panel members to share the lessons learned from working with the RICHES Toolkit. Afolabi started by acknowledging the importance of buy-in from national legislators. It is essential to increase their sense of urgency related to social client protection practices and raise their awareness on unintended consequences of financial inclusion. Ovenseri added that it is important to keep the conversation going and to create a cross-border community of practice, in which practitioners can exchange experiences of using the RICHES Toolkit and share knowledge on how FSPs can improve their client protection practices and integrate child protection.
Aguilar presented the ACCEL AFRICA Project, a regional project of ILO, which seeks to partner with FSPs in Africa to provide guidance on how information gathered by the RICHES Toolkit can inform their strategy to go beyond building awareness. The project offers financial and technical support to adapt their operations and policies, integrate child protection considerations into their business model, and develop or adapt innovative financial services that address the root causes of child labour.
Kuklewicz closed the session by thanking the panellists and audience members. She invited the participants to have a look at the RICHES Toolkit and share their thoughts on the resources.