Karandaaz Pakistan arranged an international conference in Islamabad in partnership with The World Bank to share data insights on the state of financial inclusion of women in Pakistan and present Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Strategy on Gender and Financial Inclusion. Representatives from the World Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading banks and telcos, and the Fin Tech industry attended the event. The conference highlighted the most significant challenges and barriers faced by low-income women to accessing formal financial services.
Karandaaz has taken many initiatives in the recent past to improve the state of women’s financial inclusion. One such initiative is to research, design and develop an agent banking model that will serve low-income women in partnership with Unilever, JazzCash, and Women’s World Banking. Karandaaz in partnership with Information Technology University (ITU) of the Punjab has initiated three research projects through the Fintech Center to improve the existing knowledge on women’s use of digital financial services. Karandaaz is also working on a study to improve the payment processes for BISP beneficiaries. Karandaaz also showcased its Women Entrepreneurship Challenge 2017 at the conference. The 2017 round of this challenge helped over 35 women-led businesses by providing them customized business training, mentorship and access to finance. The purpose of these initiatives to demonstrate successful models for increasing women’s financial inclusion in Pakistan and their ability to play an active role in overall economic growth of the country.
Evidence from nearly 100 emerging economies shows that increasing women’s participation in the economy leads to other gains at home, at work, and in society at large. Women have limited agency in financial matters with the men in the family holding this responsibility. Results from a study of an ongoing research programme called ‘Financial Inclusion Insights (FII)’, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that only 16% of Pakistani women who derive their income from the formal economy have sole control over their incomes.
Speaking at the conference, Melinda Good, Operations Manager, World Bank Pakistan said, “Empowered Pakistani women can transform the country’s socio-economic reality. Currently, women’s labor force participation is 25%, only 1 in 100 women are entrepreneurs, and only about 1 in 10 women are financially included. There is an untapped potential here. The World Bank Group is working closely with the Government and other stakeholders to increase women’s participation in the economy and their access to relevant financial services such as payments, savings, insurance and credit.
Sarah Hendriks, Director, Gender Equality, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stressed on the need for greater financial inclusion of women, “Millions of women around the world face barriers to earning a living and controlling their assets. This is especially true of the world’s poorest women. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will invest $170 million designed to help drive women’s financial inclusion, enhance women’s participation in agricultural markets, and support a new wave of self-help groups that can empower the next generation of women and girls,” she said.
CEO Karandaaz, Mr. Ali Sarfraz stressed on the importance of greater financial inclusion for women. “Fostering financial inclusion for women is a core and cross-cutting theme for Karandaaz Pakistan. If we have to make any tangible progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Pakistan needs to act immediately to ensure women’s participation in the process of development. We are focusing on women’s economic empowerment as a key way to drive progress in the deep, complicated intersection of poverty and inequality.” he said.
Karandaaz Pakistan, is promoting financial inclusion for individuals by employing technology enabled digital solutions and access to finance for micro, small and medium businesses through a commercially directed investment platform. The company has financial and institutional support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).