KARACHI: The gender disparity in financial inclusion has risen, with just 11.7 million, or 18%, of adult women having active bank accounts, compared to 51% for men, Deputy Governor Sima Kamil of the State Bank of Pakistan said on Monday.
She spoke at the launch of the ‘Banking on Equality: Reducing the Gender Divide in Financial Inclusion’ consultation, a flagship policy campaign to encourage financial inclusion for women.
Hosted by SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir, the webinar hosted an exclusive panel discussion on women’s financial inclusion with international gender and finance think-tank experts, including Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Head of the Aga Khan Growth Network, and Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, Director of the International Monetary Fund’s Planning, Policy and Analysis Section. Dr Anita Zaidi, President of Gender Equity at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, chaired the session.
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In an attempt to overcome one of the main problems hindering the country’s economic development, the State Bank of Pakistan has initiated a national dialogue on its upcoming strategy to reduce the gender disparity in financial inclusion.
Various local and foreign partners from elected offices, international offices, banks and organisations attended the webinar. Moreover, via social media channels, almost 1,000 people have viewed the webinar online.
The SBP governor said in his opening remark that increased gender equity in financial and economic resources will boost a nation’s overall socio-economic growth performance for not only present but future generations. He noted that there were three main priorities for the case.
Princess Zahra expressed her thoughts on how to make changes in the landscape of gender diversity and what measures to make a difference is needed. Pazarbasioglu observed, meanwhile, that gender diversity in financial service providers will enhance the overall financial inclusion of women in a region. She also shone light on main demand and supply side challenges for women’s low financial inclusion that remain globally.
‘Pressing need to review policies’
Recognizing that gender neutral laws were inadequate to minimise the finance sector’s gender gap, the SBP said there was an immediate need to interpret these regulations through a ‘gender prism’.
The SBP said in its draught ‘Banking on Equity Policy: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion,’ published on Monday, “Inclusion calls for equal opportunities for men and women to access and use formal financial services.” At present, however, females are overwhelmingly under-served by the financial system of the nation. This gap hinders the national economic growth of Pakistan. The purpose of this document’s proposed strategy is to generate banking equity and to reduce the gender disparity in financial inclusion.
The draught policy prepared by the SBP in collaboration with appropriate stakeholders defines five main areas in which actions are targeted in the policies of the SBP to enhance gender equity, product diversification and growth potential, consumer acquisition and facilitation approaches to women’s segments, gender-disaggregated data collection and prioritisation of gender emphasis.
The policy guidelines would refer to supervised agencies of the SBP, including commercial banks, Islamic Banks, Microfinance Banks (MFBs), Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs), etc. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) is scheduled to introduce, for the non-banking financial market, a similar but tailored gender regulation.
The strategy, accessible on the SBP website, is scheduled to be released in early February 2021 based on wider input.