Finnish Design Shop has supported Women’s Bank for nine years

For many years, Finnish Design Shop has celebrated International Women’s Day by making a donation for Women’s Bank, an organization that supports women’s education, livelihood, and entrepreneurship. Last year we managed to gather a record donation: 15 000 euros. Read on to find out what has been achieved with our donations!

Finnish Design Shop donates for Women’s Bank
Women’s Bank supports women’s entrepreneurship. Ugandan nurse Anitah Owaruhanga was forced to shut down her clinic when she ran out of medicines, but with the help of a loan she obtained from a Women’s Bank-supported savings group, she was able to restock her medicine cabinet and reopen her clinic.

WOMEN’S BANK AND FINNISH DESIGN SHOP have been collaborating since 2011. We chose to support Women’s Bank because Finnish Design Shop is all about equality, and as a Nordic growth enterprise we are especially keen on supporting women’s entrepreneurship and independent livelihood. Finnish Design Shop has made a donation every year around International Women’s Day – and this year is no exception.

We asked Women’s Bank Account Manager Ulla Räisänen to tell us a bit about the work of Women’s Bank and to reveal what they have been able to achieve with our donations.

Ulla Räisänen
According to Ulla Räisänen, Account Manager at Women’s Bank, long-term collaborations are particularly important as they help create permanent change.

What is Women’s Bank?
“Women’s Bank was born in 2007 when a group of Finnish women traveled to Liberia to learn about the lives of local women there. After meeting many hardworking and inventive women, the group came up with the idea to help them and other women in fragile positions to find ways to lift themselves up from poverty.

In practice, our work consists of raising funds for our development cooperation projects executed by Finn Church Aid, the largest organization for international aid in Finland. All our work is politically and religiously independent.

In the last 13 years, we have grown to an internationally renowned organization.

In the last 13 years, we have grown to an internationally renowned organization. Women’s Bank has helped women in 14 countries, on 3 continents. We have over 60 000 direct beneficiaries and if you count the families, over the years we have helped over 300 000 people.”

What does Women’s Bank aim to do?
“Our mission is to strengthen women’s economical and social self-determination. We strive to find sustainable solutions that allow women to make their own choices and help decrease their workload – instead of adding to it. Primarily we want to support women in fragile positions: single-mothers, widowers, school dropouts and women who live in remote or conflict-affected areas.”

Finnish Design Shop donates for Women’s Bank
Savings and loan groups offer their members loans to help them start a business or purchase cattle. The groups are of particular value in remote rural areas that lack official financial institutions such as banks.
Finnish Design Shop donates for Women’s Bank
Improving women’s financial position is in direct correlation with the well-being of the whole community. This is why Women’s Bank is focused on supporting women in fragile positions.

What does the work of Women’s Bank involve?
“Our work is very concrete. We encourage women's entrepreneurship and financial independence, and one of our methods is creating savings and loan groups, ”village banks”. They are savings groups, managed by local women, that offer loans for starting or developing a business, for example. Joining a village bank allows the women to learn about saving and controlling their own finances.

We encourage women's entrepreneurship and financial independence.

We also offer entrepreneurship guidance and teach business literacy along with other skills important in entrepreneurship. We encourage women to build networks so that they can help and teach one another. We also help women find employment and secure a profession by offering vocational training particularly for work that will benefit the local community.”

Where does Women’s Bank operate?
“This year we operate in Uganda, the Central African Republic, Jordan, Nepal, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Currently, the largest number of projects are going on in Uganda. Our newest location is Jordan where, since 2019, we have supported both local women and Syrian refugees to find opportunities for entrepreneurship and livelihood.

What we do also depends on the conditions and needs of each country or area. For example, the Central African Republic is an extremely fragile environment in which we also support women’s peace work. Only about one in four women can read and therefore teaching literacy is a big part of our work in the country.”

Finnish Design Shop donates for Women’s Bank
Ugandan Adah Tukahirwa is the chairperson of her local ”village bank.” The mother of seven is proud of and happy about her position and believes she has achieved it by following her parents’ advice: wish for others what you wish for yourself.

How have Finnish Design Shop’s donations helped Women’s Bank?
“Finnish Design Shop has supported Women’s Bank for a long time, and this kind of long-term partnership is vital for our work. It helps us plan ahead and facilitates permanent change.

At Finnish Design Shop’s request, the 2019 record donation of 15 000 € was allocated to various projects where it was most needed.

Finnish Design Shop’s support throughout our collaboration corresponds to almost the total budget of an entire development cooperation project for a period of six months. Currently, for example in Nepal, during one project we help up to 2 900–4 500 women; in Uganda, the number is 1 200–6 900. If we count indirect beneficiaries, the numbers increase many times over: we indirectly help children and families whose living conditions are improved and whose opportunities grow for things like education.

At Finnish Design Shop’s request, the 2019 record donation of 15 000 € was allocated to various projects where it was most needed. We always monitor the results as a whole – how our projects have affected the women involved as well as their families and the local community. According to studies, supporting women is the best way to support the well-being of children, families and entire communities.”

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Text: Emmi Ratilainen Images: Women's Bank Illustration: Anni-Julia Tuomisto

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