ACCION International Talk: Microfinance For Persons With Disabilities
On June 21, Joshua Goldstein, Principal Director for Economic Citizenship & Disability Inclusion with the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International gave Melton Fellows at BMS Campus an insight into making microfinance more inclusive for persons with disabilities (PWD). Persons with disabilities are 15% of the global population, yet no more than .5% of this group are clients of microfinance institutions – a terrible market failure. Persons with disabilities do not want to be objects of charity; they want to have the same opportunity as everyone else to fully participate in civil society. Being able to work, economic citizenship if you will, is no small part of that. In this context, he spoke about how micro-credit (small loans to the self-employed poor in the informal sector), can be an attractive option for poor persons with disabilities, who mostly have no access to the formal labor market. With work, comes greater self-sufficiency ,as well as respect from the family and the community.
As engineers, he urged BMS Melton Fellows to keep in mind the disabled during the design stage in order not to have to retro-fit infrastructure to make it accessible to PWD. Aside from the physical aspects as modifying buildings and public spaces to incorporate PWD, he also noted, “family is the best collateral for the disabled”. A strong supportive family that doesn’t see family members with disabilities as a liability, but rather encourages them to pursue a career that is best suited to them is the most important thing.
Speaking of the situation in India, Goldstein remarked that while the laws were in sync with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, there is a huge lapse in their implementation. Given this, he urged Melton Fellows – and all global citizens – to be more proactive in noticing discrimination against people with disabilities, and speaking out and taking action to change this.