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Barclays and Nike place new focus on girl power

January 2009

The multinational companies Barclays and Nike have separately committed themselves to projects aimed at boosting the self-esteem and prospects of girls in the developing world.

Barclays has signed a partnership with Unicef to give mentoring, microfinance and financial training to adolescent girls in ten developing countries, including India. The bank will contribute £5million ($7.68m) over three years to equip participants with working skills and promote ‘entrepreneurial thinking’, offering up to 15,000 hours of its employees’ time to the programme.

The project, called Building Young Futures, is also intended to encourage saving and investment habits and, as a business by-product, to open up a new market for Barclays among the people it benefits.  

Rachael Barber, Barclays’ global head of community investment, said: ‘Most of our volunteer work has been confined to the UK, where we’re headquartered. But we’re now making a deliberate effort to expand these geographies and target new markets.’ Last year the bank spent £52.4m on social and community building projects, half of them outside the UK.

Nike is to be involved in a separate project to promote the ‘economic empowerment’ of girls in poor and post-conflict countries, including Afghanistan, Nepal and Liberia.

The company will provide $3m (£1.95m) for the Adolescent Girls Initiative, to be run by the World Bank. In addition, the project is receiving millions of dollars from national governments, including those of Denmark ($5m), Norway ($3m), and the UK ($3m).

Mark Parker, Nike’s president and chief executive, said his company, like Barclays, saw a potential business return on its involvement, because providing support for young girls could generate new markets and boost the economies of countries where it sells. ‘With targeted investments linked to market demand, adolescent girls will reverse cycles of poverty, with a huge impact on our global economy,’ he said.

Robert Zoellick, the World Bank Group president, said that assisting adolescent girls in poor countries ‘is not only fair, but a smart economic move’.




Global | Community Investment

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