A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an UNICEF event on Child’s Rights in Business. Over two days, UNICEF and participants from 45 companies from 25 countries discussed the importance of integrating child rights into company policies and practices. What struck me the most is that I was one of the few representatives from the business side that could advocate not only for children’s rights, but also for financial inclusion.
Designing new products with a goal toward enabling financial inclusion is critical for promoting the economic and social livelihood of children. At the event, we were able to showcase some of the work being done by MasterCard and its partners that positively impacts the rights of children. Initiatives we highlighted included: the SASSA Debit MasterCard program which provides access to child social welfare funds electronically to over 6 million youth in South Africa and, and our active participation in the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography.
In a discussion guide Jennifer Rademaker and I co-authored with UNICEF and CYFI ( Child Youth Finance International), “Beyond the Promotion Piggybank,” we suggest that financial institutions and banks should not only be respecting and supporting child’s rights in development of products and services, but actually developing products or services specifically designed to empower children, and ultimately help them to achieve financial access as they get older.
Research has also shown that formal savings accounts can give young people a cushion from economic shocks and protect children from resorting to informal money lenders or potentially abusive and exploitative situations to bridge the financial crisis.
UNICEF is relying on corporates to help them endorse and action Children’s rights and business principles into their businesses. With greater financial inclusion as the goal, MasterCard is starting to apply the framework and developing child/youth friendly product development guidelines for our financial institution partners.
- What do you think companies should be doing to protect but also invest in youth?