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Reaching Those in Need:Are we reaching people living in poverty?

From the social data we’ve collected, we know that Opportunity’s partners are generally successful in targeting poor communities and families. In some cases, data suggests there is still potential to better target those most in need. This is because poverty is complex and reaching people living in poverty is even more complicated – it is not always enough just to open a branch in an area with high poverty rates. By monitoring and responding to social data, our partners will be able to improve their outreach and better serve those living in poverty.


What We've Learned

Opportunity is reaching 6.6 million women borrowers through a suite of financial services, including financial literacy, tailored to meet their needs – 96% of Opportunity clients are female.

Why This Matters

Globally, only 65% of women and 72% of men have an account with a financial institution. The disparity is greater in many of the countries Opportunity works.


What We've Learned

Opportunity provides financial and other services — including agriculture loans — tailored to meet the needs of rural populations and is reaching at least 5.3 million rural borrowers.

Why This Matters

Globally, just 66% of people in rural areas have access to financial services. This is only 39% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Financially Excluded

What We've Learned

Almost 40% of our new clients surveyed in Africa had no access to loans or savings with a financial institution before joining our network.

Why This Matters

1.7 billion adults around the world are still unbanked.

Living In Poverty

What We've Learned

Over half of new clients surveyed were living below $2.50/day before they joined our network.

Why This Matters

Despite great advances, a large proportion of our global population today live in poverty. A majority of these people live in the areas where we work - India, Africa and East Asia.
We are working with our partners to help them update the poverty lines with which they measure poverty outreach of their clients, to use the latest World Bank International Poverty lines.


As we seek to end poverty, we also need to recognise that being poor is not defined just by a lack of income. Other aspects of life are critical for well-being, including education, access to basic services and infrastructure, healthcare and security. The relative incidence of the deprivations in education and sanitation imply that poverty rates could be significantly higher when these non-monetary dimensions are added.

The Power of Social Data

Understanding this gap in basic services and income levels will help our partners to better understand their client base and their needs, and to design products and services accordingly.

Opportunity’s Indian partners have a strong focus on reaching female, rural and vulnerable populations in India; 99.5% of our clients are female, 78% live in rural areas, 68% belong to scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and other backward classes and 25% are illiterate. These groups not only have higher poverty rates, but are the most excluded from basic services.

The data in the map below allows each of Opportunity’s partners to better profile clients, understand their needs, and even map geographic variances. The data demonstrates deprivations that the families we reach live with.

Data shows greater deprivation in the north than in the south, however, there are still pockets of deprivation in the south. Without quality data, these pockets of deprivation risk being overlooked – so social data can inform more strategic outreach to ensure people don’t miss out on the basic services they need.

Clients have many different needs, and having a data-driven understanding of these is key for improving the design and delivery of our products. This baseline data will also help track the improvements experienced by these clients after accessing the services delivered by Opportunity’s partners.



25% of our clients do not have access to a toilet.


Globally 2.0 billion people live without access to basic sanitation. In addition, almost 673 million people practice open defecation. In 2017, only 74% of the world's population has access to basic sanitation. Of those with access to basic sanitation, only 45% of the world’s population have access to safely managed sanitation (which includes containment through safe collection, treatment and end use/disposal).

A lack of decent toilets and clean water causes diarrhoeal diseases that, on average, claim the lives of 800 children in the world every day – one every two minutes. Female biological needs make a lack of toilets particularly harmful for women and girls – from birth, through childhood, into puberty, throughout adult life, and into old age. Girls who don’t have decent toilets at school or near home typically have to defecate in the open or use unsafe, unhygienic toilets, often shared with boys. Aside from the health risks, this is uncomfortable, embarrassing and puts them at risk of verbal and even physical abuse. 

One in three women around the world do not have access to a decent toilet of their own. The health impacts of poor sanitation trap people in poverty making it difficult to get an education or to work to support their families.

India, the world’s second largest country by population, has 732 million people without access to at least basic sanitation – 56% of the population. Around 522 million, or 39.8% of people, practise open defecation. A staggering 355 million women also do not have access to basic sanitation. Between 2014 and 2019, the Central Government in India built around 110 million toilets all across India, due to which the basic sanitation coverage went up from 38.7% in October 2014 to 93.3% in 2019. Today, there has undoubtedly been immense progress made in improving access to sanitation by working with the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission – with 97 million household toilets reported built between October 2014 and June 2019. India also ranks in the top 10 countries for reducing open defecation and improving access to basic sanitation.

To address health and safety issues associated with open defection, our partners provide sanitation loans to help clients with construction of sanitation facilities. Ill health, through lack of clean drinking water, or poor sanitation, often affects clients’ ability to work and earn an income. As such, it has both a direct and an indirect effect on the poverty status of clients.

Drinking Water


23% of our clients do not have access to their own drinking water facilities.


Globally 6.8B people — 90% of the global population — used at least a basic service: that is, improved water source within a 30 minute round trip to collect water. Around 785M people across the world lack access to basic drinking water service, including 144M people who are dependent on surface water.

In India, 93% of the population had access to at least basic water. A total of 163M people lack access to safe water in India. While health hazards of poor-quality water are readily apparent, the time spent on water collection by women can also be a severe hardship as it takes away the hours that could be used for productive activities like work or school. Over 60,700 children under five die every year due to diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).



25% of our clients are illiterate. A large percentage of these clients belong to our partner Cashpor, with operations in some of the poorest states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.


When a large part of the population is illiterate, it hinders the economic and social development of the country. A lack of adequate education can perpetuate this poverty cycle, causing families to pass poverty on to the next generation. 

The adult literacy rate in India is 77.7% with the female adult literacy rate at 70.3%, far below the global adult literacy rate of 86% in 2016. 750M adults globally, two thirds of whom are women, still lack basic reading and writing skills. Of this total, around 36% or 283M adults reside in India. Data also suggests that the higher the level of education of the head of the household, the lower is the chance of the family living in poverty. According to 2011–12 data, approximately 34% of the illiterate population is living below the Tendulkar national poverty line in India. This compares to just 3% of the population having completed higher education living below the Tendulkar poverty line.

Poverty Around the World

1 in 9
people in the world are undernourished
1 in 7
people still practise open defecation
million people living in extreme poverty around the world
children under five die every day, mostly from preventable causes
1 in 3
of Africa’s women cannot read or write