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. Women, by virtue of being poorer and having fewer assets are more likely to be excluded from the financial sector. It is clear that in order to ensure the poor have access to financial services, we must reach women. Not only do they represent a large share of people who should be incorporated into the working population, but they are also an attractive segment for risk management and returns. Women are more reliable borrowers because they often follow a more conservative investment strategy which, in turn, results in lower default rates for microfinance institutions (MFIs). And on a larger scale, how can we expect to be a productive society if half of the population is excluded from the economy? There is clear evidence that those countries with the greatest disparity in economic opportunity between men and women lag in GDP growth.
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