Financial Literacy Training

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We reversed our normal routine last Thursday—instead of traveling out to Pacca, a small community where our rural all-girls’ high school is, we invited the oldest class of girls from this school to our house for a lunch and a fun educational game that teaches financial literacy skills. Financial literacy is the ability to make judgments and decisions in the use and management of money. We used a training model that simulates a month of a loan cycle, in which each team or “mini-business” uses its loan to produce and sell an imagined product. Participants gain the necessary confidence in dealing with loans that aid in business development. We believe the game supplements our sports program by empowering girls in a novel setting, putting them in charge of their own money and business choices.

The financial literacy module was generously donated by Making Cents, a social enterprise based in Washington DC that provides specialized technical services and curriculum to individuals and organizations working in enterprise development.

Crowded around three tables in our living room, the fifteen enterprisers planned their businesses’ goods, which ranged from cheese and yogurt to gold necklaces and tourist alpaca sweaters. In the spirit of sensible finance management, they set aside some money for personal expenses such as food for their families, saved some in the bank, and used the rest to invest in their businesses, purchasing raw materials and transforming them into final products for sale. We challenged the students with “Life Cards,” hypothetical situations forcing them to pay for poor pecuniary decisions or to purchase gifts and donations for make-believe family members. We also enticed them with the opportunity to sell their products on credit to an unpredictable market. In the end, although all groups gained valuable lessons, just one group succeeded in managing its money and business prudently enough to meet the obligatory costs of repaying the rent and the original business loan, as well as to make off with a profit.

Once regrouped after lunch, we held a discussion about the pros and cons of different styles of business management. Previously we had been unsure whether or not the girls would engage in the game; though it can be fun, it is also confusing at the beginning and has to do with business administration, a topic we were unsure they would take to. We were heartened to hear their thoughtful comments which indicated new skills and ideas they had gleaned from the game experience. A few girls pointed out that these business concepts would apply to the agricultural research projects they conduct for their classes, semester-long assignments which often involve budget planning and business savviness.

This was the second positive reception of the game; we also found success conducting it with 10-year-olds from our city schools and their mothers. We now look forward to playing it with other Pacca classes and with the young mothers from Casa Mantay.

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