Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director, delivers opening remarks during ''The importance of regulatory policies to contribute to the deepening of the financial inclusion of women'' forum, 29 April 2021.

29 April 2021

Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros (CNBS) and AFI virtual meeting on ‘’The importance of regulatory policies to contribute to the deepening of the financial inclusion of women’’

 

Opening remarks by Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director 

 

Presidenta Ethel Deras, Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros de Honduras, Mr. Fernando Filártiga, Member of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Paraguay and Member of the AFI Gender Inclusive Finance (GIF) Committee, senior officials, and Participants, colleagues from Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros de Honduras

A very good day to you all. 

I would like to thank the Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros (CNBS) for inviting me to give the opening remarks for this webinar on the importance of regulatory policies and their contribution to the deepening of women’s financial inclusion.

I want to acknowledge the advances of CNBS Honduras, that is currently implementing the Financial Inclusion Plan for Women. It is very encouraging to see how, with the support of the supervised financial institutions, they have been able to collect information disaggregated by sex, allowing CNBS to elaborate gender gap reports and financial inclusion newsletters since 2019. I want to congratulate you for your leadership in the AFI network, and also for the gender focused policy changes recorded in AFI’s Data Portal in 2019. This training is another milestone that marks CNBS’ commitment to the gender inclusive finance agenda.

The participants here today have deep knowledge and experience to share with us on the opportunities for gender sensitive design when developing financial inclusion policies, regulations, products and services. Our aim in this webinar is that you will be able to understand the importance of the design of better financial inclusion policies, with a measurable impact, in order to contribute to the deepening of women’s financial inclusion in the country. Firstly, we will need to reflect on our current situation and the lessons we have learned since the pandemic started. We will then be able to move forwards and identify the key policy priority areas that will help us make the most progress in closing the gender gap and ensuring that those gender sensitive policy solutions are practical and achievable.  This may be through the development of new regulation and guidance or through using a gender lens to amend existing regulation in a more gender sensitive way.

It has been a whole year since we switched to virtual modes of delivery and every time, when I deliver the opening remarks for events such as this, I am overwhelmed by the interest and support shown by our members, and in this case, also the wider local stakeholder community and private sector.

The COVID-19 has had a disproportionate and negative impact on women, especially those working in the MSME and informal sector and those who are in the most vulnerable communities. According to a recent analysis commissioned by the UN Women and UNDP, by 2021, for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 living in extreme poverty (living on USD 1.90 a day or less), there will be 118 women. By 2030, this gap is expected to increase to 121 women per 100 men.

Despite the pandemic and its challenges, AFI members have been quick, agile and practical in responding to the crisis. Together, with input from our members the AFI MU developed the AFI COVID-19 Policy Response with the aim to provide support for members, both to design high impact financial inclusion policy interventions, and to support the implementation of such policies, during the crisis and for the recovery period. For example, a practical step taken by the Government of Honduras was to issue a decree mandating all supervised financial institutions to provide temporary debt service relief to companies and individuals whose incomes have been affected by the crisis. Many other members in the region have introduced policies and regulations to both mitigate the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis and to support an inclusive recovery. AFI is able to provide both grant and technical support to members in their efforts.

With the global pandemic in its second year, we as policy makers must continue to facilitate the economic empowerment of women, through greater access to and usage of formal banking services including credit, savings, insurance, and pensions but we need to be agile, flexible and fully focused. However, to achieve this goal and lower the sticky global nine percent of financial inclusion gender gap, we need a gender sensitive and enabling regulatory environment in place.

Regardless of the progress made in Latin America and the Caribbean to reduce gender inequalities in recent years, the gap in women’s access to financial services in the region remains at 7%, as only 52% of women in the region have access to bank accounts at a financial institution or with a mobile-money-service provider against 59% of men. This means they are obligated to search other sources of informal credit which result in the current credit gap for women MSMEs in the region amounts to US $86 billion. Informal funding is more costly and risky and constrains women led MSME in their opportunities to be sustainable and to grow.

Globally, women as the head of institutions are rare, but in AFI we have ten women leaders, five are in this region. When we in AFI traditionally marked the international women’s month this March, the response by women leaders from LAC region was impressive. Every single one responded. We thank Presidenta Deras who shared insights from Honduras on the ambitious project on Financial Inclusion of Women in Honduras .

As part of this project, The Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros (CNBS) has been publishing annual reports with information disaggregated by sex on the conditions of access and use of financial products and services. We commend these efforts as the availability of this type of data will allow collaboration between the regulator, civic society, and the private sector in designing innovative solutions that respond to the unique behaviors and needs of women and men, build on what we have achieved before the pandemic hit and accelerate the progress we have been slowly making.

Sustainable and inclusive growth is not gender neutral it needs purposeful policies and actions to allow women to be on a level playing field where there are equal opportunities and rights accounted for in law, are then delivered in practice. Women and men have been impacted differently by the pandemic, so simplistic solutions will not work, when faced with the complex and multifaceted problems. In 2016 the AFI membership adopted the ten-point Denarau Action Plan which identified practical policy measures members can take to increase the number of women with access to quality and affordable financial services globally and supports actions to increase institutional diversity and women’s leadership. The ten points in the Denarau Action Plan will help guide us on the practical policy actions and engagements that we can take to make a positive difference and close the gender gap. We can also be guided by the other four formal AFI Accords, including the 2019 Kigali Statement, which supports the network’s commitment to the inclusion of all vulnerable groups, to ensure we can meet the global sustainable development goals and leave no one behind.

It is for these reasons that AFI with the support of CNBS have devised this webinar, of which we look forward to tap into the practical experiences and knowledge from the network and beyond on high impact policies that deepen financial inclusion of women and tap into the policy lessons that regulators have been deploying to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on financial inclusion. We look forward to hear how data has been applied in making evidence-based policy decision.

We encourage participants to get actively involved in the sessions and bring forward their women focused solutions and policy support needs, to effectively respond to COVID-19 in a gender sensitive way. Lastly, we need to ensure that the strong collaboration that we have here today, between the public and private sector, is strengthened going forward.

On this note, I wish to thank Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros (CNBS) for hosting this webinar and also thank Mr. Fernando Filártiga, from the GIF Committee and Member of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Paraguay for participating in this event and sharing his knowledge and experience.  I do wish you all an insightful and successful session. We at the AFI Management Unit are happy to be part of this journey and we look forward to our continued collaboration with the Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros (CNBS) moving forward. 

I wish you all a fruitful and engaging event.

 

AFI’s Gender Inclusive Finance workstream is financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and other partners.


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