Renewing our efforts to close the gender gap and achieve the SDGs

The 2018 Global Policy Forum wrapped up today with back-to-back sessions on two issues vital to the AFI network: closing the persistent gender gap in financial inclusion and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through financial inclusion.

Why are 980 million women worldwide still unbanked? The panel, “Renewed Efforts to Close the Gender Gap” highlighted the key factors responsible for the global gender gap in financial inclusion, which remains stubborn at 9% in developing and emerging countries. Panelists pointed to lower levels of literacy, restrictive social norms and laws on women’s mobility and access to bank accounts, and unequal property and inheritance rights as just some of the reasons.

However, progress is being made. Countries that have reformed inheritance laws and introduced non-discrimination act are seeing their gender gap shrinking, and the latest Findex data shows no gender gap among mobile money users. There was consensus that collaboration with a wider range of stakeholders and sectors is critical, as is the collection and usage of quality sex-disaggregated data, which will be bolstered by AFI’s new sex-disaggregated data training and pilot grants.

There was optimism on the panel for the future. Ms. Helen Walbey outlined the global advocacy efforts of the Think-20 (T20) and Women-20 (W20), the latter’s financial inclusion workstream chaired by AFI and the GBA this year. Women’s World Banking has signed an MoU with AFI to conduct training in gender diversity.

Chair of the AFI Gender and Women’s Financial Inclusion Committee (GWFIC), Dr. Tukiya Mabula-Kankasa, highlighted the momentum in the AFI network with the Denarau Action Plan, which has been a tipping point. On Wednesday at the AGM, AFI’s Articles of Association were amended to include diversity at the board and other levels of AFI. Since last year’s GPF, the GWFIC has made major progress, conducting training on a range of women’s financial inclusion issues and strengthening collaborations.

Finally, the panel highlighted the need for FinTechs and DFS providers to address barriers for women and for men to act as champions for women’s financial inclusion. Nathan Naidoo of GSMA challenged men in the room to ask what they are doing personally to advance women’s financial inclusion, which “is not just a women’s issue… it is about living in a prosperous society that is in the interest of everyone.”

The theme of collaboration also emerged in the panel, “Achieving Sustainable Development Goals Through Financial Inclusion”, which explored how AFI can work with global development partners and funders to capture and highlight the contribution of financial inclusion toward the SDGs, and fully leverage the extensive expertise and knowledge within the AFI network to advance the SDGs through financial inclusion.

Panelists emphasized that there is real and growing evidence that financial inclusion is an enabler for many of the SDGs, and that this needs to be communicated more clearly at the national level to harness more support for financial inclusion initiatives. Mr. Azzam Al Shawwa, Governor of the Palestine Authority, urged AFI members that, when they return home, to tell everyone in their institution that mobile money has lifted one million people out of extreme poverty in Kenya alone.

AFI members do not operate in a vacuum and have critical roles as champions of broader development goals and the SDGs. Panelists pointed out that AFI members are already prioritizing key policy areas, such as women’s financial inclusion, climate change, and financial inclusion of forcibly displaced persons, that will enhance financial inclusion and simultaneously contribute to the broader development goals captured by the SDGs.

As Governor Jean Baden Dubois of Banque de la République d’Haiti, put it, “Financial inclusion fits very well with the objective of the SDGs. To me, talking of the SDGs is talking of financial inclusion. The number one goal is the reduction of poverty, which is one of the main points of financial inclusion.”


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