Women’s World Banking and the UN Capital Development Fund today announced the launch of the Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion (WDFI) Advocacy Hub, a new global coalition to catalyze collective action to increase women’s digital financial inclusion. The coalition aims to close the gender gap in access to digital technology, skills, and digital financial products for women entrepreneurs – particularly in developing countries.
“Three quarters of a billion women around the world are excluded from the formal financial system,” said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking. “Imagine the possibilities if those women had equal access to technology, skills, and financial services. The WDFI Advocacy Hub is a groundbreaking global collaboration that will make those possibilities a reality and close the financial inclusion gap.”
The launch comes shortly after the release of the 2021 World Bank Global Findex, which shows the gender gap beginning to narrow, though the time it will take to close has only decreased by four years. And even though COVID-driven digital usage, especially payments, may have accelerated inclusion in the short term, unequal access to technology – specifically smartphone and mobile internet – imperils this progress and could drive further exclusion.
“The gap may have narrowed, but not fast enough. In some countries it will take over 100 years to reach full inclusion without intervention,” said Iskenderian. “The WDFI Advocacy Hub will accelerate that progress through coordinated advocacy to help women grow their businesses and secure their financial future.”
There are more than 6 million women-owned Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in developing countries, with nearly 20% of working-age women owning a business. These businesses create additional income for their families and provide women with autonomy and agency. Many MSMEs operate outside the formal economy and lack access to financial products and services that enable businesses to thrive. Despite these challenges, women-owned MSMEs are a significant driver of emerging economies and must have equal access to the same technology, skills and financial products and services as men, in line with the UN Principles for Responsible Digital Payments.
“As the world attempts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating consequences, it is fundamental that women’s digital financial inclusion is a priority among national, regional, and global decision-makers,” said Preeti Sinha, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund. “Too many women are left behind in this transition to the digital economy. We see many opportunities to accelerate change to ensure women are not left behind.”
The WDFI Advocacy Hub has two interconnected components: Local coalitions in Indonesia and Ethiopia made up of civil society, public and private sector organizations who will advocate for priority women’s digital financial inclusion issues in their markets, as well as the Global Advocacy Hub which will drive coordinated, global advocacy. The WDFI Advocacy Hub’s first priority is building a diverse global coalition, and adding new partners to the hub over the coming weeks.
“By championing women’s digital financial inclusion on the ground in developing countries, we can see proof of concept – the opportunities and economic benefits digital financial inclusion can create for communities and for women’s overall economic mobility,” said Sinha.
The use of digital financial products and services were accelerated during the pandemic. Although women’s use of mobile phones and apps increased, their use has not remained consistent, and women are now 16 percent less likely than men to use the mobile internet, which equates to 264 million fewer women than men using mobile internet according to GSMA’s Mobile Gender Gap Report.
“Women entrepreneurs urgently need equal access to digital technology and digital financial services as well as the confidence and skills training to use them both to their fullest potential,” said Iskenderian. “The WDFI Advocacy Hub can bring together all the research, knowledge and actors, in one place, to turbocharge these three critical elements: technology, finance and know-how.”
Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the WDFI Advocacy Hub is a collective of diverse stakeholders, including financial service providers, FinTechs, civil society, and bi- and multi-lateral organizations. Led by Women’s World Banking and the UN Capital Development Fund, initial partners include the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), FinEquity convened by CGAP, GSMA, International Finance Corporation, The World Bank Gender Group, Better Than Cash Alliance, and Kaleidofin.
For more information on how to become a partner of the WDFI Advocacy Hub, visit www.itshereconomytoo.org or search #ItsHerEconomyToo on Twitter.