Despite improvements in financial inclusion for women in recent years, women continue to lag behind men, the gender gap in account ownership is still as pervasive. In 2011, 47% of women globally had an account, while 54% of men did. Today, 58% of women have an account, compared with 65% of men.
In the Pacific, recent research shows women are still lagging behind men in terms of being excluded from the formal financial system. Financial competency studies in the region identify that women have lower awareness, information and access to financial tools and products than men, despite being more competent in household financial management.
The Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP)’s target is to reach 250,000 marginalized women with access to sustainable financial services between 2014 and 2019. By the end of December 2017, PFIP had already significantly surpassed this figure, with over 830,000 women enrolled in financial services. PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme helping low-income households gain access to financial services and financial education. It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.
All of PFIP’s three workstreams contain gender mainstreaming elements. In particular, PFIP has worked with the region’s central banks to set specific time-bound targets for women’s financial access in all the national financial inclusion strategies (NFIS) including specific gender goals. This is an important first step in prioritizing and driving gender equity in financial inclusion. PFIP-supported knowledge products include analysis by gender, with plugging the information gap to identify women’s financial needs seen as an important outcome of the research. Nationally-representative demand-side (DSS) research has shed light on gender gaps in the region, paving the way for further in-depth research into gender equality in financial inclusion. These studies have fed into the NFIS outlined above, and provided the context and analytical basis for the gender equality goals outlined in each.
This market information also feeds into designing appropriate innovative products for both women and men. PFIP’s partnership with SPBD, for the rural expansion of microfinance services and solar loans are focused exclusively on women in the Solomon Islands, and voluntary micropension pilots in Solomon Islands and Fiji focus heavily on women, through SPBD’s distribution network are a couple of examples of this. Recognizing that women make up half of the potential client base for financial services providers, PFIP’s human centric development (HCD) approach to drive client value proposition, using rapid prototyping to develop scalable and viable business models will address the specific needs of women in a sustainable and scalable manner. PFIP works with grantees to ensure greater financial access to women through product design and messaging, with specific gender targets to be met. Additionally, PFIP has supported gender-sensitive financial education and mobile phone literacy training to improve financial empowerment of women.