SG2013 conference aims to build support for global savings groups growthBOSTON, March 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Last week, international relief and development organization Oxfam America, along with the Aga Khan Foundation, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, CGAP, Freedom from Hunger, Plan International, the SEEP Network and USAID launched "50 by 2020," an initiative seeking to expand savings groups to 50 million members globally by 2020. The announcement was made at a 2-day conference sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation in Arlington, VA held March 4-5, 2013. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20080221/DC14723LOGO ) "Savings groups are an integral part of the financial landscape of the poor," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "Already, there are 7.5 million people around the world reaping the benefits of savings groups through financial inclusion and social interaction. We hope to grow this number significantly in the coming years." Savings groups (SGs) provide access to basic financial services to 7.5 million rural poor people, mostly women, worldwide. These self-selected and self-managed groups provide their members with a secure place to save and easy access to loans. SGs stabilize income, increase household financial assets and decrease vulnerability to financial and other shocks. They are a simple, transparent, cost-effective and sustainable means of providing basic financial services to the poor and a great platform that can be leveraged to deliver the additional products, services and trainings the groups regularly request. "Savings groups have quietly but surely become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to financial inclusion," said Sophie Romana, deputy director for community finance at Oxfam America. "Thousands of groups bring crucial financial services to the poorest of the poor, allowing them to save in a safe place, borrow with confidence from their own group, and create social capital they can draw upon in times of crisis." The conference brought together foundations, financial service providers, bilateral and multilateral agencies, microfinance institutions, international and local nongovernment organizations, and practitioners to highlight the success of savings groups in expanding financial inclusion and creating social cohesion. In addition to partners and sponsors, experts from Aga Khan Foundation, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Freedom from Hunger, Oxfam America, Plan International, and USAID participated in the discussion.