Financial Education = Global Change?


Financial Nutrition is excited to introduce Natasha Ansari, who is authoring today’s Financial Nutrition blog post. Natasha is our Research and Communications Associate, and you will see her in this space more often in the future!

By Natasha Ansari

Financial education is catching on around the world!

As I review financial education research for Financial Nutrition, it is clear that there is a growing, unmistakable, global trend towards acknowledging the importance of financial literacy and financial education.  In the post-financial crisis global economy, a shift in priorities towards responsibility and money is evident, and it’s no cause for surprise that the culture towards money, and how we define our relationship with it, is changing.

While governments like the UK are realizing the merits of government-led financial literacy initiatives, with mandatory classes starting this fall, and the Turkish government is looking at financial education as a tool for development — the advent of financial education at the private level also poses immense potential for innovation in social entrepreneurship.

Take the case of a young Yale student, who launched a financial literacy initiative in his home country of Brazil, addressing a pressing social concern and in the process, developing an innovative curriculum that adapts and reflects the needs of the people trying to navigate an increasingly complex financial landscape. This “innovation” was as simple as starting financial education early and extending abstract math concepts into practical — more transferrable — financial skills.

Where you have one example of creatively addressing a social problem, financial education offers even more potential for social innovation. Financial literacy offers within itself a tool for increasing financial inclusion of historically marginalized groups—through engaging and instilling entrepreneurial thinking, creating self-awareness and potential for upward social and economic mobility, by definition.

At Financial Nutrition, we believe that financial literacy can be a powerful tool for helping women make gains in the financial world—a realm that remains disproportionately under represented by and for women. We believe that money education and understanding not only sharpens skills, but also self-confidence in the financial arena, where competition (very likely a result of this lack of diversity issue itself) remains a hallmark of the industry.

As a Pakistani, I am curious to see how financial education could impact women in developing countries. My personal observations through previous research have indicated that merely financial inclusion — through micro-financing opportunities — without diligent attention to context specificity, is not always enough. It would be very interesting to see what kind of impact financial literacy initiatives for women and girls, coupled with development initiatives, in a highly contextualized method and design could have.

In the coming weeks, I personally hope to think this through more and brainstorm what a financial literacy platform, working to empower marginalized communities in Pakistan, could potentially look like.

Natasha Ansari is a 2013 high honors graduate from Mount Holyoke College, where she majored in Economics. At Mount Holyoke she was a student mentor for the 2012 Women’s Academy for International Leadership Development Program, where she first assisted with a Financial Nutrition module. Natasha is passionate about issues concerning economic development, women’s empowerment and community organization. She is originally from Karachi, Pakistan.

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