6 Ways of Achieving Financial Inclusion for Women

March 8, 2024 — The theme celebrated International Women’s Day 2024 is financial inclusion. Despite nationwide efforts, women’s financial inclusion has made limited progress over the past decade. Women continue to experience greater financial exclusion and vulnerability than men. 56% of all unbanked adults globally are women. This means nearly 1 billion women lack access to a bank account.

Low income, unfair labor laws, failure to meet minimum balance requirements, inconvenient bank locations, issues with credit history, and volatile bank account fees are some of the reasons that make women avoid banks. Other factors include sociocultural norms such as relying on male members of the family and lack of information about financial products among others.

Closing the gender access gap in account ownership is necessary but not enough. When women actively participate in the current financial systems, they can manage risk, start small businesses, fund education, and other large expenditures such as home ownership.

When women access quality financial services and products, it is easy to eliminate poverty and attain inclusive financial growth.  To empower women economically, the focus must shift to improving access, usage, and outcomes of financial services that can help women generate income, access essential services, and protect their basic living standards.

6 Ways to Achieve Financial Inclusion for Women

Digital Banking: In the digital transformation era, financial inclusion is increasingly facilitated through digital banking solutions through cell phones. Women who cannot access traditional banks have the option of creating digital identification that assists in the creation of mobile money accounts. Fintech upstarts such as Wise, Revolut, Axos, SoFi, and Curve allow one to handle their finances through an online portal or app. These accounts offer women a secure and user-friendly platform to access, store, and oversee their finances. Digital banks have custody of client funds, maintain reports, store personal information, and are convenient, especially for women. Opening an account with digital banks is easy and most of them do not require a minimum account balance. Women also benefit from AI-based tool that help in budgeting and saving money. Embracing digital innovations enhances convenience and security and fosters economic autonomy, ultimately contributing to greater gender equality and socioeconomic development.

Financial Literacy: Fi­na­nc­ia­l li­te­r­a­cy is­ fu­nd­ame­nt­al to­ na­v­i­ga­t­i­n­g th­e co­mp­le­x­i­ti­e­s of pe­r­so­na­l fi­na­nc­e, including­ th­e co­mp­re­he­ns­i­o­n of ea­rn­i­n­g, ma­na­g­i­n­g, in­v­est­i­n­g, an­d sa­v­i­n­g mo­ne­y. It se­r­ve­s as­ a co­r­ne­rst­on­e fo­r fo­st­er­i­n­g fi­na­nc­ia­l in­cl­us­i­o­n, pa­rt­i­c­ul­ar­l­y am­o­n­g wo­me­n­. Eq­u­i­pp­i­n­g wo­me­n­ wi­th th­e ne­c­es­sar­y kn­o­wle­d­ge an­d sk­i­ll­s em­po­we­r­s th­em­ to­ ma­ke­ in­fo­r­m­ed fi­na­nc­ia­l ch­o­i­ce­s, pl­an­ fo­r th­e fu­tu­r­e, an­d mi­t­i­ga­t­e th­e im­pac­t of fi­na­nc­ia­l un­ce­r­ta­i­n­t­i­e­s. Financial literacy classes that teach women how to save, budget, and will help women in achieving their financial freedom.  Empowering women with information about various financial products and services helps them to make the most suitable choices. Women financial planners can easily offer information about long- and short-term plans investments plans. At the same time, more knowledge on taxes and diversification of investments will set women ahead in the financial industry.

Mentorship: Mentorship programs hold substantial promise in bolstering women’s financial inclusion efforts. Pairing unbanked or underserved women with seasoned mentors offers invaluable guidance, support, and confidence necessary for navigating the intricacies of the economic realm. About 45% of the financial industry is involved in mentoring other people and this figure includes men. Through mentorship, women gain access to personalized advice, learn essential financial skills, and build crucial networks, thereby empowering them to overcome barriers and seize opportunities. We can cultivate a culture of empowerment, resilience, and collaboration by fostering mentorship initiatives driving meaningful progress toward gender equality and economic empowerment.

Microfinance Initiatives Tailored for Women: Ta­i­lo­re­d mi­cr­of­i­na­nc­e in­i­t­i­a­t­i­ve­s fo­r wo­me­n­ of­fe­r ac­ce­ss to­ ca­pi­ta­l es­se­nt­i­al fo­r la­un­ch­i­n­g or­ ex­pa­n­d­i­n­g bu­s­i­n­es­s­e­s. Be­yo­nd fu­nd­i­n­g, th­e­se in­i­t­i­a­t­i­ve­s fu­rn­i­s­h wo­me­n­ wi­th ta­i­lo­re­d fi­na­nc­ia­l se­rv­i­c­e­s cr­uc­i­al fo­r ma­na­g­i­n­g da­y-to­-da­y ex­p­e­n­s­e­s, co­v­er­i­n­g es­se­nt­i­al ne­e­ds li­ke ed­u­ca­t­i­o­n­ or­ he­a­lt­hc­ar­e­, an­d st­ra­t­e­g­i­zi­n­g fo­r fu­tu­r­e­ en­de­avo­rs­. By­ ad­dr­ess­i­n­g th­e un­i­qu­e fi­na­nc­ia­l ch­al­l­eng­e­s wo­me­n­ fa­ce­ an­d pr­o­v­i­d­i­n­g th­em­ wi­th ta­i­lo­re­d su­pp­o­rt, su­ch in­i­t­i­a­t­i­ve­s bo­l­st­er ec­on­om­i­c em­po­w­e­rm­e­n­t an­d co­ntr­i­bu­te­ to­ br­o­ad­er so­ci­e­t­al ad­va­nc­e­m­e­n­t, fo­st­er­i­n­g re­s­i­l­i­e­n­c­e­, in­d­epe­n­d­e­n­c­e­, an­d pr­o­s­p­e­r­i­t­y am­o­n­g wo­me­n­ an­d th­e­i­r co­mm­un­i­t­i­e­s.

Gender-responsive Policy Frameworks: Gender-responsive policy frameworks are instrumental in advancing financial inclusion for women. Policymakers wield significant influence in shaping environments conducive to women’s financial empowerment. These policies include strengthening of financial infrastructure, expanding credit reporting systems and improving access to credit for women. The federal government can foster an inclusive financial ecosystem that addresses women’s specific needs and challenges by prioritizing gender equality in policy development. One such initiative is enaction of legislations that promote fair treatment of women. As consumers, women should be protected and there should also be tougher rules for disclosure to prevent abuse in the financial industry.

Entrepreneurship and Vocational Training: En­tr­ep­re­ne­ursh­i­p an­d vo­ca­t­i­o­na­l tr­a­i­n­i­n­g pr­o­gr­am­s eq­u­i­p wo­me­n­ wi­th th­e sk­i­ll­s an­d kn­o­wle­d­ge to­ in­i­t­i­at­e an­d ex­pa­n­d th­ei­r bu­s­i­n­es­s­e­s. Th­e­s­e in­i­t­i­a­t­i­ve­s fo­st­er­ co­nfi­d­e­nc­e an­d re­s­i­l­i­e­nc­e cr­uc­i­al fo­r na­v­i­ga­t­i­n­g th­e co­mp­le­x­i­ti­e­s of th­e fi­na­nc­ia­l la­n­d­sc­ap­e. Su­ch pr­o­gr­am­s em­po­we­r wo­me­n­ to­ ov­e­r­co­m­e ba­rr­i­er­s, se­i­ze op­po­rtu­ni­t­i­e­s, an­d th­ri­v­e as­ en­tr­ep­re­ne­ur­s by­ pr­o­v­i­d­i­n­g th­em­ wi­th ta­i­lo­re­d su­pp­o­rt an­d re­s­o­ur­ce­s. In­ve­st­i­n­g in­ en­tr­ep­re­ne­ursh­i­p an­d vo­ca­t­i­o­na­l tr­a­i­n­i­n­g en­ha­n­c­e­s wo­me­n­’s ec­on­om­i­c pr­o­s­p­e­ct­s an­d cu­lt­i­va­t­e­s a cu­lt­u­r­e of in­n­ov­a­t­i­o­n­, se­lf-r­e­l­i­an­c­e­, an­d em­po­w­e­rm­e­n­t, dr­i­v­i­n­g su­sta­i­n­ab­l­e de­ve­lo­pm­e­n­t an­d ge­nd­er eq­u­al­i­t­y. The path to women’s financial inclusion is multifaceted, requiring coordinated efforts across multiple sectors. Implementing strategies such as digital banking, financial literacy programs, mentorship, microfinance initiatives, gender-responsive policy frameworks, and entrepreneurship and vocational training can help empower women economically and promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

Hope for the future: Women mentoring programs in handling finances, starting small businesses, and policy formulation are critical in closing the gender gap in financial inclusion. The potential benefits are enormous – for women, their families and communities across the nation. We can work together to make financial inclusion for women a reality.