Why Financial Inclusion should be celebrated this Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

This is the time of the year where we celebrate women for all the amazing work they have been doing around the world. The day recognizes women’s achievements around the world without regard to national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political divisions.

The day is also set to reflect progress made in regard to women’s achievements and call for change, and hence the tag #PressForProgress.

One thing that we have made enormous progress in the lives of women is financial inclusion.

I remember my grandmother uses to spend hours and hours farming tea and coffee. She would then take to the local cooperative, but the bonus always ended up with my grandfather and my uncles, who would give her pocket change for all her work.  For her to access credit, she would have to get a letter from my grandfather, and further explain why she wants the money. As much as she tilled the land, it did not belong to her. She did not have collateral or security to access credit.  She was forced to start a chama with her friends to save the little they had, and loan other friends, what we call table banking.

For a long time, women have been financially excluded than men.  They have had to shelf their dreams because of lack of access to money from banks and other financial institutions.

Fast forward to this day and moment. Mobile money, first introduced in Kenya in 2007 has changed all that.

It has been a great 11 years and we are still pressing for progress.

Just to take you through the eleven years of what mobile money, especially Mpesa has done for women.  According to Brookings report, 75%  of adult Kenyans have a financial account, with 71% of women owning financial accounts. As at now, Kenya has been ranked the top country for the third consecutive year in a survey on financial and digital inclusion by a US-based public institution.

This has been largely driven by the widespread use of mobile money solutions that have made it easier and cheaper to send and receive money as well as to take out loans.

Women have been able to achieve so much with the help of just a mobile phone. You see, with a mobile phone, a woman who runs a shop can receive money for payments of goods. She can pay suppliers through mobile money. She can also access a quick loan to enable her purchase more stock for her shop. All this is done without paperwork, collateral or permission from her husband.

The same woman can also start a savings account on Mpesa, and start saving for school fees, shopping or new kitchen ware. All this without the knowledge of their spouse. Don’t get me wrong, spousal support is great, but research has shown that most men have hindered the growth of women economically, and that is why more and more women are using mobile money to do their transactions and savings.

Financial inclusion is the driver of economic growth.  As we are pressing for progress, we need to look at ways to teach women financial literacy, as we have seen, the power and freedom is in their hands. We need to teach women how to do business, save and invest.

As more people gain access to mobile money, the question of how it can be used to improve the lives of the women becomes more critical. The development of products like digital investment, credit and savings are essential for moving women from basic transaction accounts to services that meet financial inclusion’s broader promise of lifting women out of poverty.

So, what more can be done to empower women through their mobile phones?

Promote chamas through mobile banking

From the days of our grandmothers, women have come together to gather their resources for one great common goal. Women save for emergencies and investments, so it would be ideal if they got a product on mobile money that allows them to save, monitor the transactions, invite new members and an easy to use product that allows even the unskilled to use the product .

Drive trust and confidentiality through promos

Women want to know that when they use mobile money to save and transact, that this information will not be shared to third parties. Third parties being their spouses. As much as we want to spread the message that mobile money is free for all, women want to be assured that whatever they do with their money through their phones, is confidential. This gives them the confidence and freedom to do more with their money.

We are privileged as a country to lead in financial inclusion. There is more that can be done, but for now, we are celebrating that women, through mobile banking, are empowered to transact with ease and convenience.

So today, let’s celebrate the far we have come!

Happy Women’s Day