Latin America is a group of nations on the rise, yet income distribution in the region remains among the most unequal in the world. Our story takes place in South America where hundreds of millions live in dire circumstances and the poorest of the poor are women. It is the plight of women like these, multiplied by millions, which sets a ground of activist-economists on a journey to develop new ideas that confront what they call “the scandal of inequality” on their continent by expanding financial inclusion from the bottom up.
They form Fundación Capital (Winners of the 2014 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship), a group guided by the idea that the poor can save and build assets, use tablet computers to educate themselves, and access capital through crowd-funding and mobile banking. To take these innovative ideas to scale, the team at Fundación Capital partners with women living in poverty as well as players in the public, private and social sectors, piggybacking on G2P programs (Government to People) like Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) to forge a path to sustainable financial inclusion. Programs like CCTs transfer cash to poor households, on the condition that they keep their children in school through secondary education, and take them to health clinics on a regular basis.
“We want to gently twist capitalist mechanisms, to transform the capitalist system, from individual values to values of solidarity.” – Yves Moury, President of Fundación Capital
At the heart of our film are the stories of women who participate in Fundación Capital’s programs, encountering in themselves formerly untapped political and economic energy which propels many into active roles of civic participation. By a lake in the Peruvian Andes, we meet Cirila Quillahuaman who tells us that the women in her village, once “sleeping beauties,” have now been awakened by the program, and are opening savings accounts and starting small businesses. Cirila has been elected as city councilwoman and is now pressing her local government to expand the pilot program. In the slums of Cartagena, Colombia, we meet Agripina Perea who has been able to build her own business from what she learned and saved in a financial inclusion program. “I don’t know where they got such a great idea to unite women and teach them how to save,” she says, “and through that, to teach them their rights.”
These innovative financial inclusion programs which the film spotlights in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, are now poised to spread to reach millions of women. If the model is taken to scale, can 20 million women to upend a continent? And if they did, what would this mean for the potential of translating insights from the developing world to an international stage?