Nov 12, 2013, 9:15 AM
Financial Inclusion (FI), which promotes access and the use of high-quality financial services, particularly among the poor and women, is crucial to achieving inclusive growth.
Women disproportionately face financial access barriers that prevent them from participating in the economy and from improving their lives.
Access to credit can open up economic opportunities for women, and bank accounts can be a gateway to the use of additional financial services.
Evidence reveals that it is more difficult for rural women to access credit and undertakes new entrepreneurship, given the neutrality of most financial products and services with respect to the gender question.
The property rights in rural areas and the consequent control of assets are usually heavily tilted against women.
This poses a serious obstacle for women to enter the credit markets due to lack of security. It is equally true that some social and cultural norms which prevent women from interacting with men other than close relatives, for example, further prevent them from acquiring, processing and comprehending vital information regarding financial services.
The real question is how we can achieve inclusive growth when 40 per cent of the youths and 70 per cent of the women who engage in low productivity subsistence agriculture are being left out from obtaining financial services adequately?
Are the prevailing interest rates too high for rural women?Have we exploited adequately the potential of Islamic banking?How do we create the incentive system that rewards financial institutions that reach out to the rural poor women and those engaged in building entrepreneurship and value addition?
Entrepreneurship development focuses more on the private sector as a source of livelihoods for the unemployed and not as a sustainable strategy for creating a cadre of local entrepreneurs.
Sixty-five percent of the limited number of women entrepreneurs are in micro-enterprises and many of them lack business development skills and managerial capacity for improved competitiveness and management.
In general, there is a lack of sustainable institutionalised and integrated business advisory/development services, especially in women’s organizations, such as cooperatives and women’s entrepreneurs’ associations.
How can we help them make this transition? There is a need to understand the constraints hindering the provision and access to affordable financial services.
The outcome of the discussion in this forum should shed some light on strategic issues such as:
How formal financial institutions such as banks and microfinance institutions could expand access to affordable finance to rural women in The Gambia to realize the Vision 2016?