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‘Targeted’ measures needed for women financial inclusion: SBP

By Our Correspondent
February 24, 2021

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Tuesday underscored need of targeted measures to improve financial inclusion of women in the country.

“Women are disproportionately excluded from accessing resources and opportunities,” the SBP Governor Reza Baqir said during a webinar.

The World Bank hosted the webinar, titled ‘consultative dialogue on SBP’S banking on equality policy’ to learn from global leaders regarding gender responsive policies and their experience on gender financial inclusion in the context of a developing country.

During the webinar, there was a panel discussion with international participants, including World Bank Global Director Caren Grown, Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian, and Bank OCBC NISP, Indonesia President Director Parwati Surjaudaja. The discussion allowed renowned experts in the field to share their experiences of gender mainstreaming and aided the consultative phase of SBP’s gender policy.

In December last, the SBP launched its consultation process with different national and international stakeholders on its banking on equality policy that will introduce a gender lens within the financial sector through identified pillars and set of specific measures to bring a shift towards women friendly business practices. Several focus group discussions have been held with a wide range of domestic stakeholders.

Baqir said strategies for achieving financial inclusion have an implicit assumption of utilising each citizen, both men and women, as a driving agent to achieve national development goals.

“It is very pleasing that the SBP team has taken this initiative which identifies practical steps to address this gap through a gender intentional approach in the financial sector,” he said.

Grown said gender neutrality in practice becomes an unconscious gender bias due to which women are ignored.

Therefore, a gender lens should beapplied to financial products and services. Surjaudaja shared the work that her bank in Indonesia is doing and what Pakistan can learn from Indonesia’s success in improving financial inclusion as both countries have growing Islamic banking markets.

Iskenderian shared the experience of women owned businesses have made a demonstrated change in her experiences especially in Pakistan’s retail sector.

The webinar featured remarks by World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer, and IFC Vice President for Asia and Pacific Alfonso Garcia.

The webinar was very helpful to get astute feedback from relevant global experts in gender policy and practice. The policy will be reviewed in line with this feedback and the valuable feedback from Pakistani stakeholders and launched in March.