As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, it is critical that Financial Inclusion be on the global agenda, for enabling women to access tools for financial success – such as a way to pay, store and manage their finances via mobile phone – often is a critical first step to overall empowerment.
Today, approximately 2.5 billion adults lack access to formal financial services, and the majority are women. Being financially underserved means not having a safe, convenient and affordable way to conduct their daily financial lives, such as paying school fees, receiving a government disbursement or sending money to a family member in a rural village. Lack of access to formal financial services also limits a family’s ability to prepare for financial shocks, resulting in tough choices—paying for a daughter’s school fees or putting food on the table—that perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Ashe/Oxfam America
Visa is committed to doing our part. Around the world, we are using our products, interoperable global processing network, mobile and security capabilities, and payments expertise to help facilitate financial inclusion at scale. We also are supporting valuable programs of non-governmental organizations focused on advancing financial inclusion, many with a core focus on reaching women.
Since 2008, Visa has collaborated with Oxfam America on Saving for Change, a program that helps poor rural women to form village groups to act as their own community banks. Through Saving for Change, savings group members save, lend, borrow and pay each other interest, a system that fills a need when formal banking and lending institutions are not available. In one Central America program, the women participating have saved more than $79,000 since their inception, and made more than 1,000 microloans to members to invest in micro-businesses or use the funds for health emergencies or household expenses.
In November 2011, Visa announced our most recent partnership, with the GSMA mWomen Programme, to close the mobile phone gender gap and help to advance financial inclusion. In developing countries, mobile technology is a key component of bringing more underserved women access to payments and other financial transactions, yet women are 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than men. The GSMA mWomen Programme is working to enable 150 million underserved women in developing countries to use mobile phones to access life-enhancing services, including mobile financial services.
On this International Women’s Day, we encourage everyone to consider the importance of financial inclusion. Access to financial tools helps build the kind of economic opportunity and stability that improves the lives of women, their families and even their entire communities.
Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on March 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm