Youth Financial Services: The Case of BRAC & the Adolescent Girls of Bangladesh
This case study focuses on the BRAC initiative in Bangladesh known as the Employment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) program, which offers both credit and savings services to adolescent girls. To help break the traditional lifestyle which characterizes adolescent girls' lives of early marriage and unwanted pregnancies, BRAC began offering financial services to adolescent girls with the goal of fostering financial independence to play a key role in empowering adolescent girls.
BRAC found that programs designed for adults should be carefully adapted to meet the needs of adolescent girls. For example, as adolescent girls are typically not financially empowered, they often prefer starting off with a loan as low as Tk.3000 (approximately $44) whereas in the case of adults, the initial amount often starts at Tk.7000 (approximately $103). Although ELA provided the needed support to the adolescents through the provision of some livelihood training and facilitated discussions of key social issues, the approach is still not comprehensive enough to achieve the deeper, transformative impacts BRAC sought to address persistent gender bias, especially against adolescent girls. The SoFEA program was thus born and consists of a 6 component support structure including a safe place for girls to meet, training on life-skills, livelihoods training, financial literacy training, savings and credit facilities, and community sensitization. Findings indicate that using the SoFEA holistic approach to financial service delivery customized to the needs of adolescents will equip the girls to invest better and take higher loans on average. By 2014, SoFEA will be reaching 15,000 girls in five sub-districts of Bangladesh and if it can prove to be sustainable, this model will be replicated throughout BRAC’s initiatives.