Financial inclusion key in women empowerment, say activists

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A woman withdraws money from an ATM. (File)

Gender activists have called for more efforts to promote women inclusion in the financial sector ahead of today’s international Women’s Day celebrations.

The day will be marked under the theme, “Step it up for Gender Equality, Strive for Women Empowerment,” with the national celebrations taking place at Nduba Sector in Gasabo District.

FinScope survey 2016, released last week, indicates that 63 per cent women have access to financial services compared to 36.1 per cent in 2012.

Although women are considered to be good managers, the financial inclusion in Rwanda 2016 by Access to Finance Rwanda shows that only 24 per cent of women are banked, while 34 per cent use other forms of banking.

An average of 24 per cent of women uses informal banking while 13 per cent totally excluded.

Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the vice governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, said there is need for full inclusion for women.

“This is a tremendous improvement done in three years, but, of course, we need full inclusion for the women,” Nsanzabaganwa said.

The central bank vice governor outlined strategies to drive this to include: continued financial literacy, mobilisation of women in village saving groups where their small savings can be used for investments and loans, creating linkages between those groups and formal channels such as SACCOs and mobile financial services.

“New Faces New Voices may be a good vehicle to channel those savings into investment,” Nsanzabaganwa, who also acts as the chairperson of New Faces New Voices, Rwanda chapter, said.

Women total inclusion at 87 per cent

New Faces New Voices Rwanda chapter is a Pan-African advocacy group that focuses on expanding the role and influence of women in the financial sector.

“Gender equality is about men and women having equal rights and responsibilities as well as opportunities.

Access to finance is one such opportunity,” Nsanzabaganwa said.

“So promoting women financial inclusion is indeed promoting gender equality in its own right. But also economic empowerment unlocks other areas, such as self esteem, capacity to contribute to putting food on the table alongside her husband, and other potential that is in her.”

She added that, ultimately, issues of domestic violence reduce as a result of women raising their worth in the marriage.

The central bank’s monetary Policy and Financial Stability Statement, released last month, indicated that 23 per cent of loans were authorised to women in 2015.

The statement further showed that this has been the trend for the last five years.

John Bosco Murangira, the director in charge of women economic empowerment at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, said efforts to push for women financial inclusion include mobilising women to step in the existing opportunities and get rare skills.

“Much emphasis will be put on the less privileged and rural women to see how they can shift from subsistence agriculture and embrace off farm jobs,” Murangira said.

“The government targets to create over 200,000 off farm jobs per year and since women make up 52 per cent of the population, they will benefit more. Regarding skills development, women will be trained in ICT to boost their skills in market information and much more.”

This year’s celebration of International Women’s Day is the first within the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In a statement by PhumzileMlambo-Ngcuka, the UN under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are confidently asserted in the agenda as intrinsic to progress.

“The new Sustainable Development Goals include a specific goal to achieve gender equality, which aims to end discrimination and violence against women and girls and ensure equal participation and opportunities in all spheres of life. Important provisions for women’s empowerment are also included in most of the other goals,” Ngcuka states.

Ngcuka added that to arrive at the future we want, we cannot leave anyone behind.

“We have to start with those who are the least regarded. These are largely women and girls, although in poor and troubled areas, they can also include boys and men,” Ngcuka said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw