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March 9, 2021

SBP says gender divide ‘severely’ impedes economic development

Business

March 9, 2021

KARACHI: Pakistan’s gaping gender divide in financial inclusion severely impedes the national economic development, the central bank’s governor said on Monday.

“Women’s equal access to financial services is a key priority for a country like Pakistan whose female population of more than 100 million significantly lags behind men in terms of financial inclusion and contribution to economic activity. Only 29 percent of women in Pakistan have a bank account, among the lowest in the world,” the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Reza Baqir said speaking at an event to commemorate the international women’s day.

Baqir emphasised a gender perspective in existing policies and industry practices to build an inclusive financial systems that serve women and men equally. “Although Pakistan has made some progress in terms of financial inclusion in recent years, a gaping gender divides remains in the country and without women’s active participation the social and economic potential of our country would remain constrained,” he said.

“SBP is taking initiatives under its comprehensive national financial inclusion strategy to prioritise women’s financial inclusion and will soon be launching its path-breaking gender mainstreaming policy called banking on equality.”

SBP governor said promoting equal opportunities for women and men for accessing and pursuing financial and professional endeavors is critical for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in any country. Improved gender parity in financial and economic opportunities can enhance socio-economic development outcomes not just for the present but also for future generations, he said.

Cognisant of prevailing issues and difficulties faced by women in access to financial services, SBP is taking initiatives to provide a more enabling environment, he said.

These initiatives include a comprehensive national financial inclusion strategy to prioritise women’s financial inclusion and a micro payment gateway Raast to offer advance digital solutions.

In addition to promoting financial literacy in women segments in rural and peri-urban areas, SBP has launched a credit guarantee and refinance scheme, which offers a zero per cent refinance rate and 60 percent risk coverage for small businesses run by women entrepreneurs.

“SBP is also working on a path-breaking gender mainstreaming policy called banking on equality, in consultation with other stakeholders to reduce the gender gap in financial inclusion,” he said.

The goal of the proposed policy is to engender equality in banking and reduce the gender gap in financial inclusion. The proposed policy identifies five key pillars under which actions are targeted towards improving institutional diversity, incorporating a gender lens for development and marketing of tailored bank products, modification of approaches towards women customers’ facilitation, collection of gender-disaggregated data, and prioritising a gender focus in SBP’s policies.