Under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, stakeholders from around the world gather in Amman to promote financial inclusion for low-income women

AMMAN – Women’s World Banking today kicks off Building Women-Focused Finance: The Global-Local Experience, a two-day conference in Amman, Jordan bringing together more than 250 microfinance practitioners, commercial bankers, investors, donors, and regulators from more than 40 countries. The conference is being held under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah.

“I am so pleased for Women’s World Banking to join Microfund for Women in hosting the conference in Amman, the first of its kind in the region. Financial inclusion in the Middle East and North Africa is at an important juncture, with enormous opportunity to serve new segments with innovative products and services. It is my hope that the discussions here will move more financial institutions toward meeting the economic needs of women clients,” said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

Women’s World Banking is a global non-profit organization devoted to giving more low-income women access to the financial tools and resources essential to their security and prosperity. While disproportionately underserved, women are the strongest potential clients for financial institutions with historically higher savings behavior and loan repayment rates. For more than 30 years Women’s World Banking has worked with financial institutions to show them the benefit of investing in women as clients, and as leaders. The organization equips these institutions to meet women’s needs through authoritative market research, leadership training, sustainable financial products and consumer education.

Conference participants will explore the landscape of financial needs and services in the MENA region, which has the lowest percentage of women participating in the formal finance sector in the world, according to the World Bank. This exploration will set the stage for a broader conversation on access to finance, particularly for women. Session topics will include: how financial institutions can expand their market by developing a suite of products to meet the specific needs of women; innovative approaches to reaching segments of the underserved population, including youth, low-income salaried workers and rural women; and experiences operating in crisis situations, including political instability, influx of refugees and natural disasters.

“I’m truly excited to bring these diverse voices together to share experiences and begin to close the financial inclusion gap for women. Women’s World Banking has always drawn strength and purpose from our global network of partners. By sharing unique challenges and approaches to serving women well, we will all gain a greater understanding of what it takes for financial institutions to achieve the social impact of serving women clients while also being financially sustainable,” said Iskenderian.

At the conference, Women’s World Banking will also present the 2013 Excellence in Leadership Award, which annually recognizes a microfinance institution committed to developing women’s leadership and gender diversity in order to prove that investing in women makes business sense. Jordan’s Microfund for Women (MFW), Women’s World Banking network member and local host of the conference, will receive this year’s honor. MFW has built an institution that ensures that women are well-represented in the organization’s workforce, leadership and governance while maintaining its commitment to serve every ambitious woman.