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Savings from women are saving families—Lessons from Iraq and beyond

“This difficult time has shown me more than ever how important my contributions can be to the financial well-being of our household,” -Zainab, a program participant from Iraq

Whenever crisis strikes, personal savings become more critical than ever for keeping families afloat. In nations where women continuously lack the opportunity to earn an income outside of the household, savings become crucial for supporting and uplifting families, pointing to the benefit of investing in women as workers and household earners to boost families’ resilience.

For families living in impoverished and conflict-torn communities, employment is often based in informal economies. Their income is unreliable and inconsistent from day to day, making financial planning and putting aside emergency savings difficult. This inability for families to set aside an income for the future is exacerbated when there is only one earner in the family, who is almost always the patriarch.  

Sadia, a program participant from South Sudan

Photo Credit: Charles Atiki Lomodong

Sadia, a program participant from South Sudan, says that since learning how to successfully make and sell food she bakes, she is now at peace with her family and husband, as she can contribute to her family with savings she earns from selling her goods. 

Stories from women in nations where informal economies are a major source of employment teach us that when women are given a chance to work and generate their own income, entire families benefit, especially in times of crisis. In a recent update from our Iraq team, women told us that savings they started during the program has been a safety net for their family while their husbands couldn’t earn. They realized that their work had worth, too. 

Even during times of financial normalcy, 90 percent of women’s income gets reinvested in their families as opposed to only 40 percent of men’s income. Overall, when women can participate in the local market economy and add to their family’s earnings, obtaining daily essentials, like food and medicine, becomes more of a reality than just a goal, and extra earnings can be diverted into savings.  

Jihan, a graduate from Iraq

Photo Credit: Alison Baskerville

Jihan, a graduate from Iraq, pictured here with her two daughters. Using the skills she learned from our Signature Program, Jihan and her husband were able to save enough money to buy themselves a house and successfully pay off their debts. 

As we check in with our program participants around the world, their feedback only confirms what we know. As part of our Signature Program, women gain the knowledge needed to track their income and learn valuable skills that give them the chance to earn and save more; by gaining marketable vocational experience, learning about village economic cooperatives, and receiving a monthly stipend to preserve financial well-being, they have a real opportunity to save for times of crisis, maximizing their earnings and reinvesting in their families. 

Iraq portrait

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