Women’s Empowerment in Accessing Financial Services

By Marina Joseph – Art in Tanzania internship

World Bank views financial inclusion as means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way. Financial inclusion expands access to efficient financial services. Achieving inclusive growth means promoting often overlooked groups of people in the society such as women and poor people as they disproportionately face access to quality financial services. Empowering such groups helps increase participation in the economy and their standard of living improves simultaneous 

Women’s World Banking (WWB) is a global network comprised of 39 leading microfinance institutions from 27 countries. The network members are diverse in geography, size, and structure but united in the firm belief that microfinance must remain committed to women as clients, innovators, and leaders. In 2009 WWB was asked to review proposals by the G-20 Financial Inclusion Expert Group which they gladly did as it was an acknowledgement that women face different or additional barriers to entry in accessing finance.

WWB offered 9 suggestions to financial institutions interested in increasing access to finance for poor and low‐income women. The following are the suggestions

  1. Time: Acknowledge constraints on women’s time and mobility
  2. Confidentiality: Give women the choice of who they want involved in financial transactions
  3. Product design: Accommodate all levels of literacy in product design and marketing
  4. Documentation and collateral requirements: Be sensitive to the fact that requirements for documentation and collateral may exclude women  
  5. Loan size: Give women access to a range of loan sizes and structures  
  6. Accounting for cultural norms: Tailor marketing strategies to reach women
  7. Branding: Create a brand position that honors women  
  8. Institutional Culture: Ensure gender positive interactions
  9. Moving beyond credit: Offer a full suite of financial products  

World Bank’s empowerment sourcebook, ‘empowerment is the expansion of assets and capabilities of poor people to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold Empowering Women through Microfinance: Evidence from Tanzania 36 accountable institutions that affect their lives’. In a developing country such as Tanzania financial inclusion for women can have transformative effects. Tanzania’s policy makers have made steps in creating an enabling environment for women’s financial inclusion. 

In 2006 Alliance for financial inclusion (AFI) mentioned efforts that Tanzania is a country is undertaking to bridge that gap. The following are some of the existing and expanding policies to achieve that

Financial inclusion data disaggregated by gender 

The Bank of Tanzania has expressed its intent to collect sex disaggregated data and is in the process of expanding its financial inclusion database collecting data similar to Findex 2014. As a country it has developed policies based on FinScope surveys in 2006, 2009 and 2013, which provide financial inclusion data broken down by gender. A new FinScope survey will be conducted in 2016 and is expected to have an even stronger influence on policy direction.

  • Development of financial infrastructure

Significant progress and development have been made by Tanzania in developing payment infrastructures that are effective alongside its regulatory framework for mobile money. These infrastructures help in building information based on women as clients so they can be better served.  

  • Women’s financial inclusion as an explicit policy objective with quantitative targets

Tanzania’s 2013 Framework gives priority to poor rural households and their enterprises, including low-income women and youth, without specifying gender targets. Following the high-level conference on women’s financial inclusion held in Yamoussoukro in August 2015 and the 7th AFI Global Policy Forum (GPF) held in Maputo in September 2015, the Bank of Tanzania decided to introduce gender targets and indicators in the revised measurement framework, with the possibility of integrating gender issues into the Financial Inclusion National Framework itself ( Alliance for Financial Inclusion, 2016). 

  • Financial consumer protection regulation

The Financial Inclusion National Council recognizes the importance of financial consumer protection which has been emphasized with the growth of digital financial services. The Bank of Tanzania sees consumer     protection as particularly important for women as they are considered to be more vulnerable to the environment.