Breaking Down Barriers

Levi Strauss & Co.
November 22, 2011

Equality comes in all shapes and sizes – sometimes, it may even come in the form of a savings account.

19-year-old Imre, pictured above, lives in Hungary with his mother and four younger siblings. He is also a qualified mason and the breadwinner of his family. As a man of Roma descent, however, he faces discrimination when applying for a job or credit.

Before hearing about Autonómia Foundation, he didn’t think it was possible to save money for long-term goals. Instead, Imre’s earnings were spent on immediate needs for his family. At the same time, his small house in Bonyhád, Hungary, needed a lot of improvements – and a proper bathroom.

Autonómia Foundation, a Levi Strauss Foundation grantee, gave Imre the opportunity he hadn’t had before: it allowed him to receive matching dollars for a fixed amount of money he saved up each month. As his savings increased, the distant dream of installing a bathroom in his house became a real prospect.

In addition, Autónomia provided him with training on lowering energy consumption and keeping track of expenses – two easy ways his family could also save significant sums of money.

The Levi Strauss Foundation’s support of organizations that help low-income people accumulate assets is rooted in the Company’s commitment to support the needs of factory workers, who often live paycheck to paycheck.

By focusing on public policies and programs that enable low-income working people to build wealth for them and their families, the Levi Strauss Foundation helps advance the company’s vision of a more equitable society.

Last year, I met with Autonómia Foundation to deepen my knowledge of their work. During our meeting, I was struck by their commitment to help some of Hungary’s poorest people get a leg up— especially the Roma community, which has often fallen behind due to stigma and discrimination.

In just 12 months, Imre and his family have saved enough money to renovate their house. Imre is already thinking about the next improvement he’d like to make – and now he has the tools and knowledge to do it.

To learn more about how Autonomia Foundation is helping seed the idea of asset building across Europe through the Levi Strauss Foundation’s  innovative Indigo Network, click here