Although there are still a number of challenges that continue to drag women behind men in terms of financial inclusion, the number of women who are banked have greatly improved, rising from 24 percent in 2016 to 34 percent in 2021. This was revealed in a FinScope 2020 Gender thematic report on the state of women financial inclusion in Rwanda. The research was aimed at identifying and addressing gender financial inclusion inequalities by acknowledging differences among and between women and men and also to promote better informed, gender responsive and effective interventions among others. The research was supported by Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR). According to the report, although there has been a high uptake of women with regard to banking financial products and services working in the formal sector, they still lag behind their male counterparts by 6 per cent. Commenting on the findings, John Rwirahira, one of the team members of this research said that a combination of cultural beliefs and norms, low levels of education, lack of employment or other sources of income and not being involved in household decision making is still blocking a number of women from accessing financial services. Rwirahira also pointed out that there was a challenge of awareness where some 67 per cent of the women had some level of awareness of financial services. Overall, 33 per cent of the women surveyed had very low awareness of these products and services. Financial inclusion improves Comparing the data, Rwirahira said that overall, financial inclusion has improved, jumping from 89 percent in 2016 to 93 percent (6.7 million adults). “Although men are still leading at 81per cent and women at 74 per cent when it comes to being formally served, there has been improvement where women who were excluded fell from 13 percent in 2016 to 8 percent today,” he said. Mobile money usage has also greatly improved where the report states that 62 per cent men are now registered users as compared to 45 per cent in 2016 while 55 percent women are registered users today as compared to 33 percent in 2016. However, he said that the use is still low with 57 per cent women and 49 males using this service once a month. “Overall, 53 per cent of the population use the service less than a month. Once a week, 17 percent overall population and of these, 19 percent men and 15 percent women,” he said. Over two million (62 per cent) women in Rwanda have an account with a banking institution or mobile money service as compared to 42 per cent in 2016. However, when it comes to digital payments, only 30 per cent of the population is on board. Of these, 31 per cent are men and 29 per cent women. The biggest gender gap can be seen in terms of savings. Only 19 percent of women save with banks as compared to 25 per cent men. When it comes to borrowing, while 75 per cent borrow, less than 10 per cent of women borrow from banks while 63 percent borrow from informal mechanisms. There is always a connection between education level and financial behaviour and literacy. Financially included women increased from 80 percent in 2016 to 87 per cent in 2020. Responding to the report, Carine Uwantege, a Programme Specialist at UN Women, says that for a country to achieve sustainable development, it is pertinent that both women and men are empowered and are effective participants and agents of change. She pointed out that although there have been significant improvements, there are still some challenges that need to be taken into consideration for evidence based planning, better decision making and advocacy purposes. For instance, she pointed out access to commercial financial services where only 34 percent of the women have access. She attributed this to the limited women economic empowerment which she said can be linked to way back when women have been called household managers and are exposed to unpaid care work. “This makes men are breadwinners and the women economically dependent on them. In the world we live today, this should change. There is need for economic empowerment especially focusing on enhancing their capacity in entrepreneurship, business skills, financial management and decision making among others,” she said. The Chief Gender Monitor, Rose Rwabuhihi, says that this kind of data is paramount for all sectors and it helps avail evidence based decision-making. She pointed out the continuous improvement made toward closing the gender gap in financial inclusivity and called for better tracking and support to partners who are trying to bring the informal rural communities to the formal financial platforms. “Mobile money is an area that has shown us that women are ready to embrace the use of technology. We noted the progress from 33 per cent in 2016 to 55 percent in 2020 in mobile money use is a jump that needs to be celebrated but efforts must be increased to bridge the digital divide and improve the use of digital transactions,” she said. The FinScope Rwanda survey is conducted every four years to address the need for credible financial sector information. It offers insights to guide policymakers, regulators and financial service providers in terms of how to address or respond to existing challenges, monitoring and reviewing the financial inclusion target.