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2020-03-12

Advocating women’s financial inclusion data

By Stephanie Oula, Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership Manager, Data2X

2020 is a milestone year for gender equality. It marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, where 189 countries agreed to a historic blueprint for achieving gender equality and advancing women’s empowerment during the 1995 UN World Conference on Women. Women’s economic empowerment is a key part of the original Platform for Action, which raises critical areas for concern such as inequalities in financial access, the burden of unpaid work, as well as barriers facing women in the informal economy, and women entrepreneurs, amongst other issues. The Platform for Action also identifies the essential role of central banks and other regulatory institutions to support women entrepreneurs in particular, and includes gender data as a cross-cutting theme.

Since 1995, while many challenges articulated in the original Platform for Action remain, our understanding of women’s financial inclusion (WFI) has evolved and grown. Networks like the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and its sector-specific commitment mechanisms like the Denarau Action Plan demonstrate just how far the global policy community has come on advancing women’s access and use of financial services. Beyond a policy approach, financial service providers have started to recognize the market opportunity of serving women clients. Initiatives like the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative seek to address challenges faced by women-owned SMEs. And while gender data on WFI at the global level has improved with the Global Findex and the Financial Access Survey, stark data gaps remain at the national level, particularly on sex-disaggregated supply-side data.

Generation Equality: an opportunity for advancing WFI data

As part of the commemoration of the Beijing+25 anniversary, UN Women in partnership with the governments of France and Mexico and civil society will hold two multi-stakeholder Generation Equality Forums this year, to revitalize momentum around achieving gender equality by 2030 (the deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs). During the forums, six Action Coalitions will be launched, with one on economic rights and justice, which includes WFI. Gender data and accountability is also a cross-cutting theme of the Action Coalitions.

The background research conducted by UN Women on WFI for the Action Coalitions noted the breadth of existing WFI stakeholders; the availability of proven solutions and case studies; and the importance of sex-disaggregated data on access to and use of financial services. Notably, it also highlights the key role of central bank commitments to sex-disaggregated data as a key starting point, alongside gender-sensitive regulation and policies.

Generation Equality presents an important opportunity for the broader women’s financial inclusion community to increase momentum and amplify our collective work. It is a campaign and movement that will have heightened visibility and financing for gender equality, with multi-stakeholder efforts through each of the Action Coalitions and their cross-cutting themes. We should ensure that WFI data is a key part of the conversation.

What should we keep in mind as we advocate for WFI data in 2020?

Data2X has convened the Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership since 2014, to improve the collection, analysis, and use of sex-disaggregated data for WFI. Our WFID partners include: AFI, the Financial Alliance for Women, the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB Invest, the International Finance Corporation, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

In our six years of convening the partnership, we have seen that case studies, commitments, champions, and collaboration are critical to achieving progress on women’s financial inclusion data. These four “Cs” can also help support the broader WFI community as we mobilize for Generation Equality together this year.

Firstly, case studies of how countries have improved sex-disaggregated data—whether demand or supply-side, or both—are key. Case studies provide tangible insights, lessons, and models for replication. They answer both the “why” and the “how” of WFI data. For example, Mexico’s pioneering work on national demand-side surveys and gender data has been inspirational in the region and beyond—demonstrating the role that gender data plays in national financial inclusion policy-making and monitoring. Other AFI members have also documented their experiences with gender data collection, which have proved invaluable for peer-learning.

Secondly, commitments—specific, actionable—with clear targets and timelines are necessary to track progress on WFI. AFI’s Maya Commitments and Denarau Action Plan on women’s access to financial services are key examples of how governments can set ambitious policy commitments to close gender gaps, including on gender data. To date, 20 AFI members have made Maya Commitments to improve their sex-disaggregated data collection, analysis, and use. These commitments support increased investment in data capacity and leads ultimately to a broader policy culture of data-driven decision-making and accountability.

Thirdly, champions can use their access, influence, and networks to encourage commitments or showcase case studies. Key WFI champions have included Dr. Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula (former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Zambia), Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa (Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, and Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands (the UN Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development). These champions never missed a chance to advocate for the importance of gender data to WFI—whether in public keynote remarks or closed-door private meetings. Through amplified messaging, champions can keep gender data on the agenda for multiple audiences and at multiple levels.

Finally, we can only truly leverage the momentum around Generation Equality through collaboration. Gender data has always been both a technical and political issue, requiring a holistic and coordinated ecosystem approach. In order to expand WFI through improved gender data, everyone—from central banks to financial service providers to international organizations to civil society—has a role to play. It’s been twenty-five years since Beijing’s historic mobilization; AFI members have one year left to achieve their Denarau Action Plan commitments, and the international community has ten years left to attain SDGs. Advocacy on WFI data is critical during this milestone year, we need to continue to move quickly and to move together to ensure women’s full access and use of quality financial services.

Data2X is a gender data platform housed at the United Nations Foundation.