3 actions to expand women’s financial inclusion amid COVID-19 – International Women’s Forum


Mary Ellen Iskenderian, IWF Fellow, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, shares three key points for expanding women’s financial inclusion in response to the impact of the ongoing pandemic.

1. Digitize government benefit payments

Distributing government-to-person (G2P) payments through digital channels is a proven way to boost financial inclusion and empower women economically. Research shows that payments made directly to women strengthen their decision-making power within the household and enhance their participation in the labor market. For example, according to the Global Findex 2017, 80 million women opened their first bank account in order to receive government social benefits. Last year India made the bold move to make COVID digital aid only payable to women; from June 2021, 25 million new accounts in India were opened mainly by women.

Given the urgency of quickly providing cash assistance in response to the devastating impact of COVID-19, governments must manage the potential risks when using digital payments and minimize the risk of excluding women in the market. process. Providing women with a choice of payment service providers and ensuring that they have the appropriate digital and financial capacities are two important steps in improving the impact of payments as a valuable stepping stone towards financial inclusion.

2. Eliminate the gender gap in mobile phone ownership

In the decade since the launch of digital financial services, owning a mobile phone, ideally a smartphone with Internet access, has become an essential first step towards financial inclusion. But the gap between male and female smartphone ownership in low- and middle-income countries exacerbates the exclusion of women from the financial system.

Encouragingly, the gender gap in mobile internet use is shrinking from 20% last year to 15% this year. This reduction in inequality is almost exclusively due to the increased adoption of mobile Internet by women in South Asia. The GSMA attributes this increase in the pandemic, suggesting that the online education and entrepreneurship needs of women outweighed previous restrictive social norms.

Governments can take steps to close the gender gap in mobile telephony by building the infrastructure necessary to support mobile connectivity, facilitating competition and consumer choice, and leveraging opportunities. Universal service fund to increase women’s access to high-speed Internet. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) can also increase handset availability in non-urban markets, increase asset finance options (installment payment plans) for handsets, and facilitate the creation of handset / data / talk / options. “grouped” text.

3. Design appropriate and affordable financial products for women

Like Oliver Wyman Women in Financial Services Note: “Women are the largest group of underserved clients in financial services.” But, all too often, when financial service providers seek to redress this imbalance, “approaches that may appear gender neutral in fact fail to take into account men’s needs and preferences.” Financial service providers can both tackle financial inequalities and increase their customer base by designing and marketing financial products specifically for women.

For example, built-in savings mechanisms and financial education resources create long-term benefits for women, their families and their communities. In addition, products developed for low income and irregular people with high frequency and low face value transactions are particularly relevant for women.

As the effect of the pandemic has increased care responsibilities for many women around the world, product flexibility is particularly important. For example, the flexible nature of e-commerce platforms can not only help women access economic opportunities and support, but do so on their own terms.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and disproportionately impact women around the world, prioritizing digital financial inclusion for women is crucial. Improving digital finance, such as digitizing G2P payments, closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership, and tailoring financial products to women’s needs, will require a concerted effort from the government. share of governments, businesses and the financial services sector. Learn more about what each of us can do in Achieve financial equality for women. Women’s World Banking is committed to empowering women; you can read more about our work on www.womensworldbanking.org.


Join us on September 23 for a special virtual session presented by Brown Advisory, The situation of women in the world: how are we dealing with the pandemic? The session will feature IWF members Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, and Alisha Haridasani Gupta, editor of the New York Times’ In Her Words newsletter and reporter covering the impact of COVID-19 on the women. The discussion will examine the issues as well as potential solutions related to the economic challenges women face during the pandemic. Mary Ellen and Alisha are both members of the Women’s Forum of New York. REGISTER HERE.

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