The Empower U program celebrates two years of assisting women in poverty to build their money management skills and assets for a stronger future
Two years ago, a collaborative effort aimed at increasing financial literacy among women living in poverty began in the Alberta Capital Region. The Empower U program started in 2012 when seven agencies that previously held individual funding support systems came together on the idea that financial-management skills are just as important as monetary assistance to women in poverty.
“The class has changed my life, not just financially, but also in looking at the rest of my life. I am finding more balance in my home and personal life and I am starting to see the small steps.” – Empower U participant
In the two years since the program’s inception, nearly 400 women in the region have gone through Empower U’s financial literacy classes, improving their ability to be more comfortable with their financial decisions. “It’s been an excellent starting point for women to take steps toward lifting themselves out of poverty,” says Joanne Currie, director of financial stability and independence at United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.
“I know a lot of women are more self-assured with their money now.”
But as important as these financial skills are, Currie says Empower U also gives women a sense of hope moving forward as well as a feeling of belonging within the community. In the program’s first year, 84 per cent of participants indicated increased self-esteem and 87 per cent said they had improved their self-confidence. An overwhelming 92 per cent said they are more confident when it comes to money and the majority left the program more hopeful about life overall. Currie anticipates even better numbers for the next three years.
“The program restored my faith that there are people in the community who care about women like us. That really helps with building my self-esteem.” – Empower U participant
Empower U is more than just an educational program. It also includes a matched-savings component. While in the program, women start saving for an asset specific to their education, employability or quality of life. At the end of the program, what they’ve saved is then matched two-to-one by the program’s funders. Nearly $25,000 was saved in the program’s first year alone, which resulted in a total of around $75,000 used to purchase life-changing assets. Nearly one-third of the women bought computers. Many used the savings for household appliances, furniture, tuition, financial investments and items as simple as beds for their families. For its third year, Empower U has added new partners to help participants get the most from their savings. Retail outlets like London Drugs, Staples, Sleep Country and The Brick are making it easier for Empower U participants to purchase assets. “We’ve had a lot of great partners help make this program what it is today,” Currie says. “The first two years have gone great, and I’m sure the next few will be even better.”
To learn more about joining an Empower U group visit: empoweru.ca.