Christchurch is a city on the east coast of the beautiful South Island of New Zealand. It is the place where the Sisters of the Good Shepherd first arrived in 1887 to begin their work with women and girls suffering disadvantage and hardship. In 2010-2011 Christchurch was rocked by two severe earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks. Many people were killed and injured and thousands of buildings and homes destroyed.
Until recently, most of the Central Business District (CBD) of Christchurch was a Red Zone, which means that it was off limits to the general public as over one third of the CBD’s total buildings were demolished. During the process of rebuilding the CBD, many shops and services operate from temporary venues. The Re:START mall was built in the aftermath of the earthquake to allow business owners to continue to operate whilst their own properties were repaired or rebuilt. The unique solution was to use shipping containers converted into shops.
When a severe natural disaster hits a community, particularly when threats of ongoing disaster continue for a long period of time, the social fabric is torn. Families already living on low incomes are the most affected, and women and children suffer from increased risk of domestic violence.
Although Good Shepherd Sisters no longer live in Christchurch, because of the Sisters’ deep and historic connections with the city, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand established this Project as the first for The Good Shepherd New Zealand Trust (Trust). It involves the Trust partnering with Aviva Family Violence Services (formerly the Christchurch Women’s Refuge) (Aviva) in Christchurch, New Zealand, to develop and implement a No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) Programme, with the support of Good Shepherd Microfinance in Australia and Kiwi Bank.
The Project is important to:
Enable individuals and families on low incomes and during times of financial challenges to achieve the benefits of financial inclusion by providing access to no interest loans and complementary resources, advice and support
Contribute to the social, emotional, psychological and financial status of Canterbury families, the communities in which they live and community stakeholders, particularly following the 2010-2011 Christchurch earthquakes
Help break the cycle of family violence and financial dependence and contribute to a sustainable violence free lifestyle and wellbeing, by providing access to microfinance and other services and supports for women, children and other family members affected by family violence
Inform, support and promote the continued development and expansion of NILS and other microfinance programmes in New Zealand.
Ms Fleur Howard is the Senior Project Manager. The Project brings together many parties – it is managed (and the operations funded) by the Trust, operated by Aviva, evaluated by an independent third party, and accredited by Good Shepherd Microfinance, with the loan capital provided by Kiwibank. Aviva reports to The Good Shepherd New Zealand Trust, Good Shepherd Microfinance and Kiwibank at regular intervals.
The major target group for the Project is clients (individual women, men and families) of Aviva and its Alliance Partners who are residing in Canterbury, and generally living on a low income. The Alliance Partners are Aviva and 5 other philosophically aligned NGOs who have a shared vision to improve service outcomes for Canterbury’s most vulnerable children and families, operating across the family violence continuum.
Eligible clients of Aviva and the Alliance Partners will benefit, with a NILS loan enabling them the opportunity to purchase significant household items, or a service, that improves their quality of life or enhances social and economic participation where they would otherwise not be able to access fair and affordable credit.
The Project is aiming to benefit 60 clients of Aviva and the Alliance Partners, in the 12-month pilot period. The gender breakdown will be evaluated throughout and at the end of the 12-month pilot period. However, it is anticipated that the high volume of clients served by the Alliance Partners (over 6,500 in 2011-2012) will ensure that the number of clients required for a reliable evaluation of the Pilot’s impact will be met.
The Project promotes the mission and spirit of the Good Shepherd Sisters. It is an example of a creative partnership between many parties, where all parties can combine their values, ideas and strengths to help bring about changes which enhance life and increase hope for the most disadvantaged, especially women and girls.
The Project aims to contribute towards a more just society, while affording the clients of Aviva and the Alliance Partners dignity, respect and compassion. Evaluation of the Project will focus on Good Shepherd’s long-term priorities of embedding social justice, with a focus on economic and social inclusion.
The 12-month Aviva NILS Pilot Project, and its impact on clients of Aviva and the Alliance Partners in enabling them to be financially and socially included, will be evaluated throughout and at the end of the Pilot by an independent third party evaluator. However, we recognise that evaluation of these impacts will need to continue beyond the life of the 12-month Pilot Project for us to correlate more meaningful stories and data.
Our hope is that the development and implementation of NILS in New Zealand, and our Pilot Project evaluation, will help inform and promote the growth of NILS and other microfinance programmes here, not only by Good Shepherd but by other participants. Microfinance has already been identified (by parties advising the New Zealand Government) as a potential solution to child poverty, and as a deterrent to pay day lenders. We will continue to use this Project and the work of Good Shepherd Microfinance in Australia to try and persuade the Government, and our banks, to support the growth of a microfinance industry in New Zealand.
We believe that by enabling financial and social inclusion for women and families living in poverty and affected by family violence, the Project will contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals:
Improving attendance in education
Achieving gender equality
Contributing to good health and well-being.
The AVIVA NILS Pilot Project is in its very early stages. The challenges to date have been around the ease and timeliness of adapting the Australian NILS model for the New Zealand environment, and as we proceed through the Pilot we will learn more about the level of adaptation required. We envisage that future challenges will relate to the speed and scale at which we can grow NILS and other microfinance programmes in New Zealand – we know that the need is there, but without Government support we will struggle to access sufficient resource capacity (both operational and financial) to meet that need.
We would be able to develop and deliver NILS and other microfinance programmes to more people more effectively if we had large scale Government and banking support, as has been the case in Australia. That is what we are working towards, and seeking to influence with this initial AVIVA NILS Pilot Project.
Click here to read more about how the Aviva No Interest Loan Scheme operates
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