How can the financial inclusion community use technology and financial services to assist women in achieving financial empowerment? The not-so-simple solution is that we need to link our efforts to a larger ideology of change that addresses women's economic empowerment. We must be transparent about the numerous barriers that women face.
However, we must be clear about the real and intangible levers we can use to assist women in finding pathways to greater empowerment through financial services that match their requirements. We also need to form alliances with players outside of our core areas of competence who can assist us in shifting levers that aren't immediately related to finance.
Women's economic emancipation will necessitate more than just having a bank account. However, in the hands of women who are determined to gain more control over their life, bank accounts can be powerful instruments.
So, how can financial services help women even the playing field and have a more egalitarian impact? Financial services may help women achieve economic empowerment in a variety of ways, including strengthening the floor, ladder, and social support. These are the four major categories:
1. Data and digital access- The digital economy is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our daily life. Women must be able to make and receive payments in order to take advantage of the digital economy's economic potential. To participate in the digital economy, women need access to a simple trinity of factors: an account, a phone, and a cash-in-cash-out (CICO) network.
However, we must equally recognise the dangers that the digital economy and its underlying financial services bring to women. Digital platforms and credit, for example, introduce additional hazards such as algorithm bias, over-indebtedness, and unequal treatment.
2. Social standards and laws- Women's ability to use financial services to enhance their life is heavily influenced by laws and social conventions. In many marketplaces, women are unable to get loans due to a lack of property rights. In addition, a lack of identification makes it difficult for women to open accounts; in certain marketplaces, women still face legal impediments to getting identification.
Financial inclusion advocates must join forces with market facilitators and advocacy groups to remove legislative barriers in the markets where they operate, while public and financial service providers must design carefully around current social norms.
3. Essential services and capabilities- Women and their families need education and skills to achieve a brighter future. According to the World Bank's Global Partnership for Education, an extra year of school for women can result in a 20% gain in income, and a child with a mother who can read is 50% more likely to live through the age of five. Educating women has a high return on investment, and financial services such as payments, savings, and credit can help impoverished families pay for school fees and other necessities.
4. Safety nets and networks in the social sphere- Women's safety nets provide the security they need to seize chances that come their way. Making sure that government-to-person (G2P) payments go into women's accounts and that women may access the cash at an outlet of their choosing have been essential aspects in ensuring that households have the resources to navigate through the COVID-19 issue.
These aren't the only things that contribute to women's economic empowerment. However, because these are concerns that are directly related to financial inclusion, the financial inclusion community must incorporate them into its efforts. The fact remains that women continue to fall far behind men in terms of access to financial services. We have the resources to build pathways for women to enter the digital economy, improve their skills, and find more time to work.