Around the world, gender inequality limits women-owned businesses’ ability to launch, grow, and thrive.
To address these gaps, Mastercard and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have partnered under the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP) to launch Project Kirana.
Project Kirana will work to increase revenue streams, expand financial inclusion and digital payments adoption of kirana shops that are owned or operated by women. The two-year program will be implemented by DAI and ACCESS Development Services in select cities of Uttar Pradesh, including Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi. The program will focus on:
Building financial and digital literacy skills on topics such as banking, digital payments, saving, credit and insurance;
Improving basic business management skills including inventory management, accounting, budget management and customer loyalty; and
Addressing cultural and other barriers to women becoming successful kirana entrepreneurs; including outreach to men, family members, and the community.
“Creating equal opportunities for women in business is not only a question of gender equality but also an economic priority. At Mastercard, we believe in levelling the playing field for women entrepreneurs. We work towards democratizing access to financial and digital services and establishing and broadening networks among small business owners. It becomes imperative to help women unlock their potential, strengthen their skills and enhance their participation in business,” said Alison Eskesen, Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. She further added, “By joining forces with USAID, Mastercard is determined to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as support the aspirations of women entrepreneurs in India.”
“This partnership between USAID and Mastercard is a great example of the U.S. Government’s commitment to collaborating with the private sector in achieving sustainable development outcomes, such as the global women’s economic empowerment”, states Karen Klimowski, Acting USAID/India Mission Director. “USAID will leverage our technical expertise and convening power in India to help bring more women into the formal economy, especially the digital economy, as we believe economically empowered women reinvest in their families and communities, spur economic growth, and ultimately help communities in our partner countries to progress on their journey to self-reliance.”
USAID has a global network of more than 186 gender advisors who work to accelerate USAID’s gender work worldwide. As John Barsa, Acting Administrator of USAID, states, “Global prosperity will remain out of reach if we exclude half the population. At USAID, we believe investment in women is key to unlocking human potential on transformational scale.”
Project Kirana is an extension of Mastercard’s commitment to empower and enable entrepreneurs through a suite of commercial products, partnerships and philanthropic giving. Porush Singh, Division President, South Asia, Mastercard said, “Women owned businesses in India, especially small businesses have tremendous untapped potential that can transform economies. Yet, India is one of the countries with the highest gender gap in the world. Project Kirana is strategically designed to support women with a suite of skills and knowledge to increase their access to financial services and ultimately bring them into the formal economy. Mastercard is excited to find the best partners for this program to create a thriving ecosystem for women-led kirana businesses.”
Mastercard recently announced a commitment of Rs 250 crores (US$33 million) to help reboot Indian SMEs and enable business recovery amid the Covid-19 outbreak. As part of the commitment, the company has launched multiple initiatives in India to:
help small businesses go online by growing digital payments awareness and providing low-cost acceptance solutions – online and offline – that are simple, safe and secure; drive inclusive growth by enabling small merchants and kirana stores with access to credit, knowledge and tools that will drive operational efficiencies; and
empower women entrepreneurs by increasing their business acumen.