#AFIStories: Advancing women’s financial inclusion in Bangladesh & Solomon Islands
Significant progress has been made to improve access to finance for women, especially women entrepreneurs, by leveraging on MSME finance policies and other policy initiatives. Take a look at two case studies below that highlight challenges, opportunities and lessons learned in advancing women’s financial inclusion.
Leverage on MSME finance policies in Bangladesh
15 percent of all Bangladesh Bank refinanced funds for the MSME sector has been allocated for women entrepreneurs.
The participation of women in business is increasingly being recognized as fundamental to economic growth. With women representing half the labor force aged 15–49 in Bangladesh, accelerating entrepreneurship and access to finance is pivotal to the socio-economic development in the country.
Bangladesh Bank has introduced several policy initiatives to enhance access to finance for women entrepreneurs and bring more women into the mainstream economy. The Perspective Plan of Bangladesh (2010–2021) aims to increase women’s labor force participation rate from 29 percent in 2010 to 40 percent by 2021, and to improve the effectiveness of financial intermediation by driving private entrepreneurship and actively encouraging business start-ups. Read about the Perspective Plan of Bangladesh in their case study.
Empowering women’s entrepreneurship in Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands’ Second National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS2) is anticipated to reach 300,000 of the unbanked by 2020 — half of these (150,000) must be women.
Gender inequality has been recognized as a longstanding issue in Solomon Islands. In 2015, the country’s first-ever demand-side survey (DSS) confirmed there was a disparity in women’s and men’s access to formal financial services. The DSS revealed that only 20.1 percent of females have access to formal bank accounts compared to 31.8 percent of their male counterparts.
The disparity is well below the global average for low- to middle-income countries, with 35.5 percent of females having access to bank accounts compared to 48.1 percent of males. The Solomon Islands Government (SIG) recognizes this disparity and the need to economically and financially empower women. As a result, SIG responded with a national policy on women’s empowerment. Find out more in the SIG case study.
Financial Inclusion for Women Entrepreneurs, The Asia Foundation, November 1, 2017