Women's World Banking

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Research & Perspectives

Policy Brief: Making Financial Products and Services Work for Women

In this Policy Brief we explore the challenges faced by women in accessing and utilizing financial products and services in developing economies.   Globally, approximately 750 million women lack access to financial services, highlighting persistent barriers despite advancements in financial inclusion. Women often exhibit lower levels of financial literacy and

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A woman entrepreneur on her smart phone in Cambodia
Research & Perspectives

Policy Brief: The Case for Gender-Intentional Consumer Protection

Financial products and services are crucial for empowering women financially, yet rapid innovation and digitalization pose risks, especially for those with low digital financial capability. Women often receive lower quality services or none at all due to societal norms. Vulnerable populations, particularly low-income women and rural communities, face amplified risks

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A diverse team representing work in gender lens investing
Research & Perspectives

Policy Diagnostic: Women in Leadership

This Policy Diagnostic on Women in Leadership underscores the importance of gender diversity in leadership positions within the financial sector and highlights persistent disparities in women’s representation. While research demonstrates the positive impact of women in top roles on financial performance, achieving gender parity remains a distant goal. Women’s World

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Research & Perspectives

Policy Brief: How Policymakers Can Leverage Digital Financial Capability for Inclusion

In an increasingly digitalized world, policymakers and regulators hold a critical role in advancing digital financial inclusion, particularly for women. Recognizing the pivotal role of financial capability and digital literacy, policymakers are urged to prioritize the development of women’s digital financial capability (DFC) to foster the widespread adoption of digital

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Research & Perspectives

Insight Note: A Gender Lens on Financial Well-Being

Women’s financial well-being requires agency, and a gender lens on financial well-being is critical to ensuring it is a relevant outcome for women. Financial well-being and related concepts like financial health, financial security, and resilience are gaining prominence as important outcomes of financial services access and use. Getting these interconnected

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Products & Solutions

Digital Credit Activation Toolkit

This toolkit is designed to empower financial service providers in refining and enhancing their digital credit solutions to better serve low-income women, particularly micro-entrepreneurs. Providers will be equipped with strategies to design and implement initiatives aimed at improving access to credit for women, addressing the unique challenges they face in

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Research & Perspectives

Algorithmic Bias, Financial Inclusion, and Gender

By Sonja Kelly, Director of Research and Advocacy, and Mehrdad Mirpourian, Senior Data Analyst The discussion around artificial intelligence (AI) as a driving force for the economy and society has become increasingly popular, as evidenced by more than two dozen AI-focused sessions at the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos.

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Report: Check Your Bias! A Field Guide for Lenders

Credit has always been a fundamental part of both formal and informal financial services. In the last three decades, however, the exponential growth in data and computing power has led to new ways of assessing creditworthiness. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have opened up the possibility of scoring

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Displacement, Financial Inclusion and Financial Resilience

A Longitudinal Study of Displaced Ukrainian Women’s Financial and Economic Lives Scroll down to download the report. Forced displacement profoundly impacts individuals’ finances, livelihoods, and social networks, especially exacerbating gender disparities for women. Women’s World Banking’s 18-month study on externally displaced Ukrainian women explores their financial and economic challenges, emphasizing

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Leadership & Diversity

Case Study: 2022 Leadership & Diversity Program for Regulators

Scroll down to download the case study. In 2022, the fourth cohort graduated from our Leadership and Diversity Program for Regulators (the LDR program). For this case study, we interviewed three participants who share their experience of developing a gender inclusive policy initiative during the program. The LDR program, created

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Reaching Financial Equality for Women (2023 Edition)

Scroll down to download the report. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the largest reverse in poverty since the Second World War. The UN estimates that at least 388 million women and girls were living in extreme poverty in 2022. Climate shocks are increasing in frequency, with disproportionate impacts on women.

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Research & Perspectives

From Access to Use: Insights on Serving Women Banking Customers in India

Scroll down to download the report. India leads the world in the expansion of financial access to low-income people, especially low-income women. As the access challenge is nearly solved, the opportunity financial services providers now face is engaging their customers. Public Sector Banks (PSBs) are uniquely positioned to effect a

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Research & Perspectives

Policy Diagnostic: Rural Women and Financial Inclusion

Financial inclusion is not an end in itself, but an enabler of other positive financial, economic and social outcomes for groups historically excluded from financial and other services. This diagnostic focuses specifically on women’s financial inclusion in rural areas, including demand-side challenges and customer needs often experienced by women more

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Products & Solutions

Digital Financial Services: Account Activation Toolkit

Digital financial services (DFS) are rapidly becoming a transformative force in driving financial inclusion and economic growth and empowerment. Low-income women often face specific challenges in accessing financial services, which hinders their economic empowerment. By enabling women’s participation in DFS, we address gender inequality, promote economic participation and bolster overall

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Designing Philanthropic Partnership for Scale & Impact

In October 2017, Visa Foundation granted $20 million to Women’s World Banking over five years. Immediately prior to receiving the Visa Foundation grant, Women’s World Banking launched an ambitious 10-year strategy to work at a greater scale to achieve greater impact. The Visa Foundation grant was fundamental to the successful

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Research & Perspectives

Climate Change & Women’s Financial Inclusion

Scroll down to download the research agenda. By 2050, climate change effects are expected to cause the internal displacement of 216 million people (IOM, 2023); sea level rise of multiple feet and associated flooding in New York City and other global coastal cities (Oppenheimer et al., 2019; NY DEC, n.d.);

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Research & Perspectives

Policy Brief: Making Digital Public Infrastructure Work for Women

The World Bank Global Findex Database 2021 reports a gender gap of 6% in account ownership across developing economies. While it is encouraging to see the gender gap fall from 9% over the last ten years, women still constitute a significant proportion of the unbanked population in low and lower

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Revolutionizing Product Design in Financial Services

As Women’s World Banking President and CEO, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, puts it: “The global average hides the starker reality of the situation women face. In some countries it will take over 100 years to achieve gender equality in financial access without further intervention.” Even more, the World Economic Forum estimates

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Research & Perspectives

2022 Impact Report

2022 proved to be a pivotal year for Women’s World Banking, as we increased our influence and reach across all our activities.

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Research & Perspectives

Policy Brief: Why Advocate for More Women Banking Agents?

Research from Women’s World Banking and our partners highlights the significant benefits of more women banking agents, both for the Financial Services Providers (FSPs) that employ them and for the women agents themselves. But in order to reap these benefits, FSPs need guidance and support from policymakers when it comes

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Building Digital Finance Solutions for Women E-Commerce Entrepreneurs: A Demand-Side Exploration in Indonesia

Until early 2023, 64.2 million MSMEs in Indonesia represented 96% of the labor force. Of these businesses, about two-thirds are women-owned. While not all of these are e-commerce businesses, 24% of MSMEs (~17.5 million MSMEs) have used e-commerce in marketing their products in 2021. This growing sub-segment of Indonesian businesses

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Research & Perspectives

Check Your Bias: Gender Bias Scorecard for Lenders

There are many ways to measure and track fairness in lending. This scorecard offers some of the more common fairness indicators used by Women’s World Banking in its diagnostic process with lenders. Paying attention to these indicators, particularly over time, will offer institutions an evidence base so they can identify

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Advancing Women As Leaders in Nigeria’s Finance Industry

Scroll down to download the report. In the last decade, Nigeria’s finance industry has made significant strides in increasing the representation of women. No sector’s success is more quantifiable than that of the banking sector. At the publishing of this report, of Nigeria’s 24 commercial banks, eight have women as

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Making Jan Dhan Work for Rural Women

India has made a huge amount of progress in the last-mile delivery of banking services to underserved communities. The opening of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts has provided millions of Indians with access to at least a basic account. Since its launch in 2014, the number of PMJDY

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Research & Perspectives

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on low-income women. Here’s how financial institutions can change that.

By Nithya Sharma (Women’s World Banking); Carolanne Boughton, and Sasha Polikarpova (Baringa) The impact of climate change is reverberating around the world, with increasing frequency and severity of weather events, rising temperatures, and loss of biodiversity. While multilateral governance bodies including the United Nations emphasize that the world’s wealthiest countries,

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Research & Perspectives

Ukrainian Women Refugees are Not Financially Resilient. Here’s Why.

By Dr. Megan Dwyer Baumann and Dr. Sonja Kelly Download the report at the end of the blog. In late February 2022, Ukrainians left their homes as Russia invaded, preparing to flee to neighboring countries like Poland, Moldova, and Romania. To date, there have been nearly 12 million border crossings

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Research & Perspectives

Women’s Financial Inclusion Through Movable Collateral: Three Case Studies

Women benefit disproportionately more from effective movable collateral systems because women are less likely than men to own fixed assets. Women are simultaneously less likely to access and use formal financial tools and services, including credit. These asymmetries result in a $1.7 trillion (USD) credit gender gap among entrepreneurs. When

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Research & Perspectives

Women’s World Banking’s 2021 Impact Report

For Women’s World Banking, 2021 marked a year of scale and expanded impact. Our new structure reflects our mission to advance financial inclusion as a global and advocacy-focused organization: Global Client Services expands our in-market presence and builds capabilities and decision-making authority in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, and Mexico.

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Research & Perspectives

Global Findex 2021: Women’s World Banking Response

Six Insights from the 2021 World Bank Global Findex Data  By Sonja Kelly, Director of Research & Advocacy For those of us in the financial inclusion world, the release of the Global Findex is a pivotal moment. The data are typically compiled every three years – this time, due to Covid,

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Sharia Finance & Women’s Financial Inclusion in Indonesia

Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims of any country in the world, at 237 million. In recent years, the national Government of Indonesia and some of its province-level governments have shown interest in increasing the availability of Sharia-compliant financial products and services for Indonesians. Indonesia aims to reach 90

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Research & Perspectives

Understanding and Unlocking the Potential of Women Ultra-Micro Entrepreneurs in Indonesia

Micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) play a significant role in Indonesia’s economy, accounting for 61% of its gross domestic product. An even smaller segment—ultra-micro businesses—is helping drive economic growth, as well. Since 2017, Pusat Investasi Pemerintah (PIP), an Indonesian government agency, has disbursed loans to 5.4 million ultra-micro entrepreneurs,

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Research & Perspectives

Breaking the Bias for Women in the Workplace through Male Allyship

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Andy Woolnough, Global Head of Advocacy at Women’s World Banking, and Sonja Kelly, Director of Research and Advocacy, discussed the importance of male allyship in breaking gender biases in the workplace and creating more inclusive environments for women to thrive. Watch the full video

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Event

Beyond Credit: How to Support Women-Owned MSMEs for Sustainable Growth

SME Finance Forum and Women’s World Banking’s hosted panel explores how financial service providers can leverage business support services to empower women-led businesses with the skills, networks, and resources needed to reach their growth potential. For micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), monetary support is not the sole determinant of

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Leadership & Diversity

Case Study: What it Takes: Insights from Women Leaders in Financial Inclusion

As part of our Leadership & Diversity programs, Women’s World Banking tracks the career paths of high-potential women leaders, both to enhance our future program offerings for new generations of leaders and to share their experiences with others. With funding support from Credit Suisse, Women’s World Banking conducted case study

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Market Opportunities for Women’s Savings: Evidence from India

Women’s World Banking’s work with women customers as well as relevant literature in the field, shows that women who save are better positioned to support their families, weather emergencies, take advantage of economic opportunities, and build their businesses. In this study, we collected and analyzed data to better understand why

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Research & Perspectives

2020 Annual Report: Fostering Greater Resilience for Low-Income Women: The State of Financial Inclusion During COVID-19

Nearly two years into the pandemic, the economic shocks of COVID-19 are still felt across the globe and particularly by women, who have been disproportionately affected by the crisis. In 2020, Women’s World Banking amplified its efforts to create greater economic stability and security for low-income women, adapting and innovating

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Research & Perspectives

How we are leveraging Nobel-prize winning techniques in our research

Applying Angrist and Imbens’ research methodologies enable Women’s World Banking to explore the impacts of its products and solutions on women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment across the globe in the context of real-world conditions By Sonja Kelly (Director of Research & Advocacy) and Justin Archer (Global Research Lead, Quantitative)

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Products & Solutions

International Day of the Girl: Women’s World Banking Highlights

Today we celebrate Day of the Girl, because every young woman carries with her the potential to change the world and drive economies that prosper. Donate today and help us continue to honor International Day of the Girl through our youth savings work: Women’s World Banking is proud to work

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Products & Solutions

Report: The Power of Jan Dhan: Making Finance Work for Women in India

Women’s World Banking’s first industry report in India highlights the design of its unique ‘Jan Dhan Plus’ solution, and learnings from a subsequent pilot study that helped nurture regular savings behavior among low-income women in the country. To understand women’s savings behaviors, Women’s World Banking worked with Bank of Baroda,

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Research & Perspectives

UNCDF’s Inclusive Digital Economies and Gender Equality Playbook

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has recently launched the Inclusive Digital Economies and Gender Equality Playbook. This playbook is a practical how-to guide on leveraging the market system development approach to decrease the digital and financial divide for women and girls, use technology to improve women’s economic opportunities,

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Women’s Economic Empowerment and Financial Inclusion in Indonesia

In 2020 and 2021, Women’s World Banking conducted exploratory research — both qualitative and quantitative — to map the linkages between women’s financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment in Indonesia. Grounded in an analysis of norms governing women’s agency, ability to enact preferences, bargaining power, and financial independence, this resulting

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Designing Digital Payments for Mexican Women Entrepreneurs

Mexico’s 6.3 million micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) generate nearly half of Mexico’s GDP and employ 37 percent of the workforce. Of MSMEs, 94.2 percent are microenterprises, and over half of these are women-owned or women-led. Despite this segment’s dominance in the economy, the majority of MSMEs transactions are

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Leadership & Diversity

Report: Leadership as a Driver of Innovative Financial Services for Women

Over the last six years, Women’s World Banking has supported leaders of financial service providers (FSPs) through our Leadership & Diversity for Innovation Program (LDIP). The LDIP seeks to develop the skills of senior executives and high-potential women leaders to enable them to successfully serve low-income women, while charting a

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Products & Solutions

Why Isn’t Movable Collateral Working for Women in Mexico?

Women around the world are less likely to own fixed assets than men. They are also are less likely to access credit for their businesses, resulting in an often cited $17 billion credit gender gap among entrepreneurs. And when they do get credit, they are given smaller loans than their

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Research & Perspectives

Movable Collateral in Mexico: Challenges and Opportunities

Mexico’s burgeoning micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) customer segment needs stronger financial products and services. Over the last decade, the Unique Registry of Gaurantees (RUG) in Mexico has sought to meet this need, with limited success. The RUG is Mexico’s current record to establish, protect, and mobilize movable collateral

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Research & Perspectives

Help Wanted: A Global Push Toward Algorithmic Fairness

A Q & A with Sonja Kelly of Women’s World Banking and Alex Rizzi of CFI, building on Women’s World Banking’s report and CFI’s report on algorithmic bias It seems conversations around biased AI have been around for some time. Is it too late to address this? Alex: It’s just

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Research & Perspectives

Leveraging Digital Financial Capability to Drive Women’s Financial Inclusion

By Marina Dimova, Managing Director of Design and Innovation, Women’s World Banking and Julia Arnold, Senior Research Director, Women’s Financial Inclusion, Center for Financial Inclusion Informed and empowered men and women make fewer risky financial decisions than those with less knowledge. And for a low-income woman, having the right knowledge

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Research & Perspectives

Measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment to Effect Change

By Sonja Kelly, Director of Research and Advocacy, and Mehrdad Mirpourian, Senior Data Analyst Not everything that matters can be measured. The data surrounding financially marginalized groups is sparse. This lack of data limits financial service providers and policymakers’ ability to design for women’s needs. However, many significant issues, like

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Building Capacity for Client-Centered Cash Assistance

In May 2020, Women’s World Banking conducted its first remote research during the Covid-19 pandemic with 44 beneficiaries, PKH facilitators, and bank agents across 11 districts of Indonesia. The research reveals that further efforts are needed to ensure beneficiaries have critical information about the program to support their financial planning and

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Research & Perspectives

Report: From Cash to Digital Wage Payments in the Philippines

With support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and in partnership with the International Labour Organization, Women’s World Banking assessed the awareness, use, and acceptance of digital wage payments among enterprises and workers in the Philippines. The Philippines’ thriving digital economy and proliferation of new digital solutions,

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Research & Perspectives

Reaching Financial Equality for Women: A 10-point action plan

The impact of COVID-19 has hit women and girls hard. The World Bank reports that 2021 will bring the first increase in extreme poverty since 1998, with a minimum of 71 million people expected to fall into destitution, and UN Women estimates that at least 47 million more women and girls will fall below the

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Empowering Women on a Journey Towards Digital Financial Capability

Financial inclusion is becoming more and more digital. To accelerate this journey to digitization, and not let women customers be left even further behind, we need to ensure policymakers and financial service providers focus on effectively supporting women customers build their digital financial capabilities, so they can use digital financial services with ease and confidence.  This report

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Algorithmic Bias, Financial Inclusion, and Gender: A primer on opening up new credit to women in emerging economies

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing financial services offerings to customers across the globe. Historically, women have been the victims of unconscious bias in lending decisions. Algorithm-enabled credit decisions have the potential to create a level playing field for female customers worldwide—but only if we find and mitigate biases

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Research & Perspectives

Building Resilience and Savings for Women Customers Post COVID-19

2021 will be a crucial year for women to build their financial resilience and begin recovering from the setbacks created by COVID-19. According to a recent McKinsey report, women globally are twice as likely to experience job loss due to the pandemic, despite making up only 39% of total employment.

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Research & Perspectives

Data Deep Dive: Her Resilience in the Face of COVID-19

Women’s World Banking’s global network of financial service providers (FSPs) champions women’s financial inclusion in their local markets, shares best practices, and leverages expertise in inclusive economies. Never has this community of practice been more important to women’s economic empowerment than now, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic creating adverse economic

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Leadership & Diversity

Investing in Women Leaders and Empowering Women Customers Go Hand-in-Hand at AMK, a Cambodian Financial Institution

By Victoria Johnson, Research Associate and Sonja Kelly, Director of Research and Advocacy Investing in women is smart business. Data shows that having women leaders improves financial performance, increases sales, leads to better decision-making, and creates a more inclusive corporate culture. On the other hand, women customers are often underserved,

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Research & Perspectives

Can Data Predict the Future of Women’s Economic Empowerment?

By Sonja Kelly, Director of Research and Advocacy, and Mehrdad Mirpourian, Senior Data Analyst Women’s World Banking is starting on a journey to find out if data can predict the future of women’s economic empowerment—and we’d like you to follow along. The task is daunting, even for a team of

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Research & Perspectives

New evidence on how to empower women-owned businesses in Kenya

By Sonja Kelly, Director of Research and Advocacy, Women’s World Banking One of the most elusive questions in financial inclusion is how to facilitate growth of small businesses—and particularly of women-owned businesses. With this question in mind, in 2016 Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Women’s World Banking set out on

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Empowering MSMEs: Creating a Better Banking Experience for Women-Led Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises in Kenya

Women’s World Banking partnered with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) from 2016 to 2019 to optimize financial and business support services for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya. An accompanying research effort evaluated the effectiveness of program implementation and the resulting outcomes for KCB’s MSME customers, especially women.

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Research & Perspectives

Sexist AI? What to do about gender-based algorithmic bias in the financial sector

By Sonja Kelly, Director of Research and Advocacy, Women’s World Banking Bias happens. It is widely discussed across the world as different industries use machine learning and artificial intelligence to increase efficiency in their processes. I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. Amazon’s hiring algorithm systematically screened out women candidates. Microsoft’s

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Research & Perspectives

Focus on Colombia: G2P Payments in Response to COVID-19

By Ana Maria Prieto Mrs. Ana Maria Prieto is currently Deputy Director at the Unit of Financial Regulation of Colombia where she has actively worked on the design and implementation of the strategy of financial inclusion and of financial education in Colombia. She was a panelist on the Making Finance

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Research & Perspectives

Women’s Economic Empowerment is the Doorway to Economic Recovery and Growth Post-COVID-19; Fintechs are the Key

This is cross-posted from DC Fintech Week where our President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian spoke on the panel “Building Equity into Start-Ups: Lessons from Women in Fintech.” We also want to congratulate our winners from our Making Finance Work for Women Fintech Innovation Challenge 2020 winners, Tyme and myAgro! Co-Authors: Mary Ellen Iskenderian,

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Research & Perspectives

Indonesia’s largest cash transfer program pivoted quickly in response to Covid-19. Can beneficiaries keep up?

By Sophie Theis, Victoria Johnson, Rahmi Yunaningsih, and Elwyn Panggabean Indonesia’s Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) was uniquely positioned to rapidly modify its conditional cash transfer program in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. As government-to-person (G2P) payment programs around the world adjust to accommodate the reality of the pandemic, Women’s

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Research & Perspectives

Digital Cash Transfers in Times of COVID-19: Opportunities and Considerations for Women’s Inclusion and Empowerment

Women’s economic empowerment will be essential for a global economic recovery. Given pre-existing gender gaps, there are concerns about exclusion for many of the social assistance programs already being rolled out around the world. Social protection systems that ignore gender inequality will likely fail to mitigate the risks of COVID-19

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Delivering on the potential of digitized G2P: Driving women’s financial inclusion and empowerment through Indonesia’s Program Keluarga Harapan

Financial institutions and governments have been working for years to leverage digitized G2P for women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment. COVID-19 has increased the stakes, as governments look to use G2P programs to strengthen women’s resilience. New research from Women’s World Banking offers insights on Indonesia’s PKH program, the country’s largest conditional cash transfer. Click here to download the

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Research & Perspectives

Getting G2P Right in Indonesia—Right Now

By Sophie Theis, Giudy Rusconi, Elwyn Panggabean, Sonja Kelly Women’s World Banking’s research shows government-to-person payments, if well-designed, hold potential for women’s economic empowerment and inclusion in Indonesia. With Covid-19, the stakes are even higher. For more than a decade, the financial inclusion community has recognized the potential of digitizing

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Research & Perspectives

Covid-19, Low Income Finance and Nine Takeaways from a Quick Survey

By Mehrdad (Mehi) Mirpourian, Senior Data Analyst, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, at Women’s World Banking  “There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.” – Albert Camus, The Plague Introduction Businesses function in environments that are agile and hard

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Research & Perspectives

Going Digital for Loan Disbursements and Repayments: A Smart Move in the Time of Covid-19

By Marina Dimova, Managing Director of Design and Innovation and Diana Boncheva Gooley, Manager of Digital Financial Services, Women’s World Banking The Covid-19 global pandemic has heightened the strategic importance of integrating digital channels into how financial services providers engage with customers. How can financial services providers respond to the

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Research & Perspectives

Report: Unlocking Credit For Women-Owned Enterprises in Southeast Asia through Value Chain Digitization

This report summarizes efforts by Women’s World Banking to answer three key questions: Which value chains in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam represent priority opportunities to develop increased credit offerings for women-owned MSMEs (micro-, small- & medium-sized enterprises) through value chain digitization? What forms of value chain digitization would

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Research & Perspectives

Economic Empowerment, Financial Inclusion, and Intimate Partner Violence

Key Findings from a Women’s World Banking Literature Review Exploring the Connection Many of us who work to advance women’s access to and use of financial services do so to improve women’s economic empowerment. A clear indicator of women’s lack of empowerment is her exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV).

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Gender Lens Investing

Gender Lens Investing: Moving Beyond Numbers

Gender lens investing (GLI) is interpreted and implemented in many different ways, from investing in women-owned and -led enterprises to investing in enterprises specifically targeting women, and more. Shuyin Tang is a Partner at Patamar Capital, a venture capital firm focused on Series A and Series B investments in South

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Research & Perspectives

Peer-to-Peer Learning Between Countries Can Foster Financial Inclusion

In April, Women’s World Banking convened policymakers from around the world—including Indonesia—at Oxford University’s Saïd School of Business for a leadership program for regulators focused on the development and promotion of policy initiatives for women and supporting banks in creating a pipeline of women leaders internally. This is not the first time that Women’s World Banking has partnered with regulators in Indonesia to encourage financial inclusion.

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Research & Perspectives

Indian Women Aren’t Using Their Bank Accounts. This Is How and Why Women’s World Banking Plans to Change That.

India has experienced exponential growth and enacted innovative financial initiatives in recent years, but promising indicators of greater financial inclusion mask a concerning trend. About half of the women in India with personal bank accounts use them in a limited capacity or not at all. Women’s World Banking’s India Strategy

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Research & Perspectives

Women are at the heart of sustainable business

Last year, I was invited to be a part of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission which brings together leaders from business, finance, civil society, labor, and international organizations to develop a private sector response to the challenges presented by the Global Goals.  Specifically, the Commission has the “twin aims

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Research & Perspectives

2015 Annual Report

Experience our annual report in this dynamic, digital format and learn how we are learning, leading and investing in women’s financial inclusion.

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Research & Perspectives

CFR | The Right to Identity

Women’s World Banking President and CEO co-authored a blog on one of the biggest barriers facing financial access for low-income women: ID’s.

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Research & Perspectives

2014 Annual Report

Today, Women’s World Banking is reaching more clients with a greater variety of products than in the past, and are partnering with a greater number and range of institutions to do so.

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Research & Perspectives

A Fireside Chat with Mary Ellen Iskenderian

Georgetown student Mike Fox reflects on Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian’s visit to the school to discuss the importance of leveraging diverse, cross-sector experience to achieve meaningful outcomes.

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Research & Perspectives

Why we should all #BankOnHer

Our goal is to remind our allies and supporters that financial inclusion must include the one billion women that don’t have access to basic financial products and services. The current interventions are working, but mostly for men.

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Research & Perspectives

Global Best Practices in Banking Women-Led SMEs

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) commissioned Women’s World Banking to conduct research on global practices of financial institutions in serving women-led SMEs and developed recommendations for banks to adopt the best practices.

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Research & Perspectives

Three reasons low-income women don’t save in a bank

Low-income want to save, can save and need a safe place to save. While creating savings programs for the poor is not easy, we firmly believe that serving women makes business sense. Neither women nor banks can afford to miss this opportunity.

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Research & Perspectives

Case for Support

A woman with a bank account can dream, plan and hope for a better future for herself and for her family. Learn why you should help us bank on her.

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Research & Perspectives

2013 Annual Report

In the last three years we have completed 27 research studies on the lives of low-income women; reached 1.2 million clients in 24 financial institutions with new products; and trained more than 200 leaders of financial institutions.

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Research & Perspectives

Have banks lost to mobile money in Tanzania?

Mobile money is gaining momentum in Tanzania. Would other financial services be able to catch up? Women’s World Banking visited Tanzania in October 2013 to conduct industry and customer research to understand what opportunities exist for mobile banking in Tanzania.

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Research & Perspectives

Mary Ellen Iskenderian blogs for the Corporate Citizenship Center

Our President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian blogged for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center blog as part of their International Women’s Day 2014 celebration. Here’s an excerpt of the post entitled “The Key to Successfully Banking the Poor: Start with Women”: “That would make us feel

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Research & Perspectives

Savings: The Next Frontier in Financial Inclusion

CFR Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman leads a conversation with Mary Ellen Iskenderian of Women’s World Banking and Steve Hollingworth of Freedom from Hunger about how savings are blazing the next frontier in poverty eradication.

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Research & Perspectives

Measuring Client Success: Insights from a Yogurt Shop

We were in Amman, Jordan last week supporting Women’s World Banking’s 2013 Global Forum: Building Women-Focused Finance: The Global-Local Experience. Our first day began with a visit to the Amman headquarters of Microfund for Women (MFW), a Women’s World Banking network member and our gracious local host for the week.

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Research & Perspectives

“He helps me:” a note on household dynamics in rural Malawi

Women’s World Banking believes that in order to serve women well, we must understand the social, cultural and political context in which they live and the distinct financial needs that they face. And while women’s experiences and needs vary, from the Middle East to South Asia, one common finding is this: women’s work – both domestic and income-generating – is undervalued, if not completely disregarded, especially in rural communities across the world.

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Research & Perspectives

The poor in the developed world need access to financial services too

In an article that ran in the Times on October 28 (“Microcredit for Americans“), Jonathan Morduch made a bold statement, one we were glad to hear: Families in rural Africa are more like U.S. families than everyone wants to believe,” said Jonathan J. Morduch, the executive director of the Financial

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Research & Perspectives

Mary Ellen Iskenderian on the NYSE Big Stage

The NYSE Big Stage website featured a summary of Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian’s talk at TEDxWallStreet on Wednesday, October 30, 2012. Microfinance is the ideal that small investments to reach those underserved by financial institutions can solve big problems. But Mary Ellen Iskendrian, CEO of

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Research & Perspectives

Financial Mail | Bring the poor into the banking system

President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian was interviewed by South Africa’s Financial Mail about Women’s World Banking’s pilot project with Diamond Bank in Nigeria to encourage underbanked women and small entrepreneurs to enter the banking system.

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Research & Perspectives

Beauty as Business: Research on Women Entrepreneurs in India

Thanks to television and Bollywood, Indian women have become more aware of new trends and demand an ever-expanding range of services for their hair, skin and nails from local beauty parlors. The result is that beauty parlors can be seen in almost every neighborhood and street, from low-income neighborhoods to busy streets and markets to posh suburbs.

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Research & Perspectives

Blog response featured on The Guardian

Research specialist Anjali Banthia’s response blog to an op-ed about the link between domestic violence and microfinance was cited in a recent Guardian article on the state of the microfinance industry.

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Research & Perspectives

Women’s World Banking highlights opportunities for Papua New Guinea Central Bank to serve women

September 23, 2013 Women’s World Banking had the privilege of participating in a collaborative workshop in Port Moresby, co-hosted by the Central Bank of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the UNCDF Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP), intended to generate ideas from a range of stakeholders to include in the strategy. This gave us a unique opportunity to utilize our research on the challenges and opportunities women face in accessing financial services in PNG to influence national policy, ensure that it includes a focus on women and to continue building our relationships with players in the Pacific region following our regional forum earlier this year.

It was heartening to see a Central Bank choosing to call together a diverse and mostly-local group of bankers, microfinance practitioners, women’s groups and representatives from savings and loan societies – alongside Women’s World Banking and the International Finance Corporation – to gather their perspectives on what the national strategy should look like. Each group presented their point of view and produced at the end of the workshop, a summary of recommendations that featured a wide range of opinions and targeting different constituencies.

We highlighted these key points from our research:

• There is an immense opportunity to serve women in PNG. Women are dramatically underserved by the financial services sector yet are just as likely as men to be earning. Women are important contributors to household. Our research showed that women need and want services to help them manage their money, including savings, loans and micro-insurance. Financial services providers should see serving women as not just a social cause but a real business opportunity.
• But women are tough customers. Winning the loyalty of PNG’s unbanked women will not be easy. Our research shows that to satisfy women, banking services need to be:
• Affordable and transparent: Women in PNG and elsewhere are unwilling to pay fees to save, such as the account maintenance fees and heavy withdrawal fees common in PNG. These fees effectively impact women more than men because they are usually poorer and have the responsibility of stretching their income to cover household expenses. Low fee, “no frills” accounts are offered by all of the PNG banks, yet there seem to be gaps in the outreach and awareness of these accounts. Most women in our study only knew about fee-based accounts.
• Secure: Women repeatedly emphasized PNG’s weak law and order environment and extremely high rates of domestic violence, which both pose serious risks for women’s physical well-being and their money if it is not locked away securely. Women also highlighted the risks of carrying money to and from their homes and businesses and said that carrying money to a bank branch may also not be safe. Mobile phone banking through neighborhood agents is therefore an attractive solution.
• Convenient: Working mothers everywhere know that they are the busiest people in the world! It’s no different in PNG. Mobile phone banking is not only great for security but offers a way to make banking much more convenient. But there is a gender gap in terms of access: PFIP found that 21% of women in urban areas do not have a phone, compared to just 9% of men. There’s also room to improve understanding and trust of mobile phone banking amongst women. GSMA found that 47% of women liked the idea but did not open a mobile money account because they didn’t understand the technology and 55% were not sure if mobile money is safe.
• Easy for illiterate customers: English is the language of the financial sector in PNG and many places, yet many women in Port Moresby (nearly 75% according to PFIP) are unable to communicate in English (a figure likely to be higher in rural and remote areas). Women’s World Banking believes in using visual and vernacular languages when creating marketing materials and forms to reduce this barrier.
The good news is that these are the features that both women and men want. If banks find ways to satisfy women through incorporating more of the features above, they will also gain men customers who have similarly been excluded from the banking sector.
Women’s World Banking shared these insights with the Central Bank, urging them to set targets to balance financial inclusion in PNG and to encourage more inclusive product design. The following inputs to the strategy were made, relating to a focus on women of the Central Bank:
• Set a target of 50% women served by the financial services sector, up from 30%, by 2015. Individual institutions should identify institutional targets for women’s financial inclusion and disaggregate gender data to track their progress.
• Lower the documentation requirements for opening an account (a barrier for women who do not have ID cards). This could include allowing women to use their affiliation with member-based groups, such as the Women’s Coffee Growers’ Association for example, as proof of identification for basic accounts.
• Work with the Ministry of Education to include financial education in the curriculum of public schools or vocational institutions, as an effort to start building financial literacy at a younger age to prepare more girls (and boys) to use financial services.
Women’s World Banking was proud to be able to contribute to and hopefully influence PNG’s national financial inclusion strategy. We’ll continue to look out for gains in women’s access in region, as we work on expanding financial inclusion for women around the world.

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Women should not have to choose lower-paying jobs

Whether in a developed country such as the United States or in the low-income neighborhoods of Colombia, women are constantly making income decisions based on a social and cultural default that they are responsible for children and the household.

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Research & Perspectives

About Microfinance interviews Mary Ellen Iskenderian

boutMicrofinance, an aggregator and disseminator of current and authoritative information and resources on all aspects of the microfinance industry, featured an interview with Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian in their Fall Newsletter.

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Research & Perspectives

White Paper on Serving Women

At the G‐20 Seoul Summit in November of 2010, Women’s World Banking was asked by several G‐20 governmentsto comment on the report, “Strengthening Accessto Finance for Women SMEs in Developing Countries.”

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Research & Perspectives

2012 Annual Report

In 2011 Women’s World Banking set-out to prove that providing low-income women with financial services is not charity but smart business. In developing economies 63 percent of women don’t have a bank account, which severely limits their ability to build a business or save for emergencies or a child’s education. During the second year of our three-year strategic plan, we provided more than 1,000,000 clients with access to the financial tools and resources they need.

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Research & Perspectives

Are Financial Institutions Serving Women Well?

When a financial institution reaches out to us and tells us they are starting to see the value of serving low-income women but don’t know how to begin, we are of course pleased that institutions are starting to recognize what Women’s World Banking has known for more than 30 years.

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Research & Perspectives

What Women’s Empowerment Means to Me

What empowerment means to a woman is complex. At Women’s World Banking, we focus on economic empowerment because we know that the ability to earn an income is linked to the ability to make decisions about how household money is allocated.

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Research & Perspectives

Women are tough but loyal bank clients

Women’s World Banking is a network of 39 financial companies across 28 countries that focus solely on women. Recognising the poor access women have to credit and savings instruments, WWB works to level the playing field. Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of WWB, talks to TOI-CREST about why women need to treated

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Research & Perspectives

Economic Empowerment Through Access

More than 1.3 billion people globally live in poverty; the majority of them are women. The United Nations International Labour Office reports that women face substantially lower employment rates, have very little control over property and resources, are more prone to working in the informal sector with lower earnings.

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Research & Perspectives

2011 Annual Report

This year, the first year of our current three-year strategic plan, was a year of innovation for WWB. Central to this strategy is a cycle of market research, piloting new products and then learning from the pilots to scale these products to new markets.Throughout this report, we will provide examples of work in each of these phases.

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Research & Perspectives

Contracorriente Trainer’s Guide (Spanish)

Women’s World Banking worked with Banco ADOPEM to create a soap opera to help teach women how to save. This guide takes trainers through a step-by-step process of the classroom education component.

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Research & Perspectives

2010 Annual Report

Although 2010 was a year of unprecedented growth in microfinance, it was also a year of considerable introspection as the industry grappled with questions of profitability, transparency and impact. While some of these questions were overdue, they prompted many to re-examine their beliefs about how microfinance can and should adapt and reform. It also forced the realization that the close knowledge of our clients’ lives and financial needs—traditionally a hallmark of microfinance—may have become secondary
to the push for greater numbers of clients.

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Research & Perspectives

2011 Excellence in Leadership Award Case Study: Kenya Women Finance Trust

WWB’s commitment to supporting principled leaders at the helm of gender diverse microfinance providers dates to its establishment as a global network in 1979. Today the WWB network includes some of the most celebrated leaders in the industry, representing a global commitment to responsive, sustainable microfinance. As we work with institutions to create innovative products that meet the needs of women we are increasingly convinced that leadership commitment is crucial to the success of growing the institution

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Research & Perspectives

2009 Annual Report

The year 2009 began with intense speculation about how the microfinance industry would weather the financial crisis, with even seasoned industry leaders questioning microfinance institutions’ (MFIs) ability to cope with dramatic shifts in portfolio quality, growth rates and liquidity. Now, with the worst of the financial crisis behind us, we can clearly see that while the microfinance industry generally experienced lower profitability and portfolio quality, it also demonstrated remarkable resilience.

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Research & Perspectives

2008 Annual Report

The year 2008 was one of historic change and dynamic accomplishment. Yet, when retrospectives of 2008 are written, they will undoubtedly center on the warning signs and fourth-quarter collapse of the global financial system. Similarly, the microfinance sector reflected this dual sense of opportunity and crisis in 2008. More than $11 billion of capital flowed into the sector, allowing providers to reach more than 155 million clients with a broader array of products and through a more diverse set of channels.

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Research & Perspectives

2007 Annual Report

The report illustrates the accomplishments of WWB and our network members, united in our mission of improving the economic access and power of poor women microentrepreneurs, and thereby improving livelihoods and creating sustainable change.

2007 was an exciting and successful year for WWB. Some key accomplishments of our network members worth noting are:

  • 8.8 million women clients were served by the WWB core network in 2007,
  • Women now comprise 64% of core network board members,
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Research & Perspectives

Gender Baseline Survey: Household Resource Allocation and the Capacity of Poor Women to Grow Their Businesses in Morocco

Providing credit to poor women can encourage the financial stability and economic progress of low-income households. But in Morocco as in many countries, gender-based constraints, burdens and responsibilities mean that more than credit is necessary if women are to make progress women in lifting their families out of poverty.

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Research & Perspectives

2006 Annual Report

The report illustrates the accomplishments of WWB and our network members for 2006, united in our mission of improving the economic access and power of poor women microentrepreneurs, and thereby improving livelihoods and creating sustainable change.

The results combined with the individual successes of our network members illustrate that together we are making a difference in the lives of millions of poor people worldwide.

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Research & Perspectives

Stemming the Tide of Mission Drift: Microfinance Transformations and the Double Bottom Line

This paper provides an overview of the process by which microfinance institutions (MFIs) convert from NGOs into regulated financial institutions—known as transformation—and examines the impact of transformation on a control group of MFIs tracked by WWB over the past five years, giving particular attention to the effect of transformation on MFIs’ outreach to low-income women.

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