Soap opera encourages Dominican women to save

by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 24 October 2011 12:10 GMT
TV show aimed at poor women includes advice on managing money and focuses on power relations between husbands and wives

BOGOTA (TrustLaw) - The plot of Latin American soap operas usually revolves around boy meets girl and the ensuing obstacles and family feuds they have to overcome to be together.

But a new soap in the Dominican Republic, Going Against The Flow, twists the convention to weave in information aimed at its target audience of poor women about how to save and manage their money.

“The message to women is that savings provide a level of security for you and your family. Credit is not necessarily the answer,” said Mary Iskenderian, head of Women’s World Banking, a global microfinance organisation, which is running the initiative.

“The soap opera will cover - what does it actually cost to build a house, what is compound interest, the aspirational aspects of savings. As soap operas in Latin America are very aspirational themselves, we thought it was a good medium through which to promote financial education,” she told AlertNet in a phone interview from New York.

The 16-episode soap, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also focuses on the position of women in society and the power relations between husband and wife in the home.

The show, to be aired twice a week from the end of October, hopes 100,000 viewers will tune in to follow the ups and downs of the working class Ortiz family who face financial problems.

One episode focuses on how to raise money to build a house, a lifelong wish of one character.

“You know my friend, a house is not built on dreams, you have to plan the financing,” a woman says to her friend as they chat over coffee. She then gently mocks her for keeping all her money in an envelope, and explains the different types of savings accounts and how to open one in a bank.

Women are the sole breadwinners in roughly 40 percent of homes across Latin America and the Caribbean, but few have active bank accounts, know how best to save or how to access savings products.

“Women tend to be the savers in most households in the Dominican Republic but research showed that a great number of accounts were dormant and had small balances,” said Iskenderian. 

The show also looks at remittances, money sent back from relatives living abroad, which many families in the Dominican Republic, like the rest of Latin America, rely on to meet basic needs. It looks at the pitfalls of sending money through rogue agents and the importance of using only accredited agents.

The plot encourages women to take more control of the money they earn and to play a greater role in deciding how family earnings are spent.

“The soap opera looks at how do you negotiate with your husband in the home,” Iskenderian said.

“The ability to be more financially independent is priceless. It gives women independence to make decisions, so they’re not so reliant on their husbands.”

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