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
Women’s Economic Empowerment
Explore the latest global and regional insights from Women’s World Banking’s work in policy, leadership, women’s entrepreneurship, gender lens investing, and more.
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,
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,
Women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment are critical building blocks in development. Between now and 2030, the target date for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the inclusion of women in the financial sector and their economic engagement and empowerment will unlock major milestones on the road to a more
Women’s World Banking and UNCDF Launch Strategic Partnership to Advance Women’s Economic Empowerment in Emerging Markets and Least Developed Countries
Partnership aims to accelerate access to, and usage of, digital financial tools, services and enabling technologies to help low-income women build economic resilience. Women’s World Banking and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) today announced a strategic partnership to enhance financial inclusion and access to digital financial services for
On January 15 UN Women, in partnership with the governments of Mexico and France, announced coalition themes supporting the 2020 Generation Equality Forums to be held in Mexico City in May and Paris in July 2020. The announcement is intended as a catalyst for accelerated progress against gender equality goals.
The lessons we’ve learned from this work have formed the foundation for our new strategy to advance financial inclusion for women at scale globally.
An important editorial on widening women’s access to financial services by Taimur Baig, Chief Economist of DBS Bank and member of Women’s World Banking’s Southeast Advisory Council, has been published in a special IMF edition of The Jakarta Post.
CNN | Banks around the world are cashing in on an untapped market — women. And it’s transforming their lives
At her food stall in the largest open-air market in Lagos, Nigeria, Amaka Charles regularly checks her cell phone for her bank account balance.
One year on, a look back at our CEO’s House Foreign Affairs Committee testimony on the importance of promoting women’s financial inclusion globally to unlock economic growth.
The Central Bank of Nigeria announced that the country would not be meeting its 2020 financial inclusion targets. Nevertheless, developments in biometric ID, regulatory sandbox, industry partnerships and agent network growth are on the horizon to put the country back on track.
Forbes, The Story Exchange | There Are 1 Billion Unbanked Women in the World. This Mobile Initiative Could Transform Their Lives
She Counts aims to help unbanked women micro-entrepreneurs access mobile savings accounts and business training services.
This Mother’s Day, a look at how Women’s World Banking has developed financial tools and resources for mothers to build a more secure future for herself and her family.
How our gender lens impact investing fund Capital Partners delivered returns for gender equality for low-income women and gender diversity for the institutions that serve them.
On International Women’s Day, read why Australia is committed to advancing gender equality by driving financial inclusion for women.
Emerging data from our projects in Nigeria and Pakistan counters bank leaders’ perception that women aren’t good bank clients.
Make serving the women’s market the New Year’s Resolution that drives your institution’s double bottom-line.
We feature the closing conversation of the Making Finance Work for Women Summit, which looks ahead to the future for women’s financial inclusion.
Three takeaways from the Making Finance Work for Women Summit.
With support from the Metlife Foundation, Women’s World Banking documented four best practices in serving low-income women profitably and sustainably.
Kate Hooper, Executive Vice President, Market Research and Solution Development at Women’s World Banking discussed what India can do to close thegender gap with senior leaders of Credit Suisse India.
Our President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian’s comments were cited in this article on India.com about India’s biometric identification system, Aadhar.
Our President and CEO testified in front of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing, “Beyond Microfinance: Empowering Women in the Developing World.”
Women’s World Banking is pleased to present its 2016 Annual Report in dynamic, digital format.
How has Women’s World Banking impacted the lives of low-income women around the world? Find out in our annual report.
Keeping our Pulse on Women’s Needs: How Our Research Approach Points the Way to Eliminating the Financial Inclusion Gender Gap
Our new research approach looks at forces at work in women’s lives, allowing us to develop more impactful financial solutions. Take the case of India.
Our President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian wrote a piece on The Guardian on how empowering women is non-negotiable when it comes to promoting sustainable global growth.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian on how giving low-income women access to finance can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Our microinsurance director on meeting and hearing the stories of the incredible women our partners serve.
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
In its flagship report Better Business, Better World, the Commission recognizes that while the last few decades have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, they have also led to unequal growth, increasing job insecurity, ever more debt and ever greater environmental risks.
Our research, monitoring and evaluation specialist is quoted in this piece on what is keeping Southeast Asian women from rising to the top.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian was interviewed as part of Thomson Reuters’ special multi-media feature, “Leaders of Sustainable Development.”
The rise of Southeast Asian economies have not escaped the world’s attention. We’re making sure women are included in the growth of the region.
Women’s World Banking outlines specific recommendations for public and private sector players to address the challenges to women’s financial inclusion.
Women’s World Banking outlines specific recommendations for public and private sector players to address the challenges to women’s financial inclusion.
Our President and CEO is proud to introduce our digital annual report for 2015.
A case study on the experience of Nigeria in implementing promising approaches to gender-focused financial inclusion policies.
A case study on the experience of Tanzania in implementing promising approaches to gender-focused financial inclusion policies.
During a recent visit to New York, Viji Das chatted briefly about her work and shared stories of the low-income women she meets in the field.
Our project w/ Diamond Bank in Nigeria is highlighted in this Tech Tank piece.
Our product development director and our BETA Savings project in Nigeria is cited in this article about the economic impact of empowering women.
Our guest post for the Microfinance Gateway in honor of International Women’s Day: a lookback and look ahead for women’s financial inclusion.
Australia’s Minister for Women welcomed participants at a reception in honor of our CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian.
Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian was interviewed on Australian radio show, RN Drive by Patricia Karvelas.
Women’s World Banking conducted research on low-income women at risk for domestic violence in Colombia to see whether savings can bring physical, emotional and psychological well-being, as well as financial security.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian participated in a Guardian and Opportunity International-hosted roundtable on women’s economic exclusion and how to help them overcome it.
The comments of our Chief Knowledge and Communications Officer, Karen Miller, were highlighted in this piece on craftswomen and their global economic impact.
Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian guestblogged for CFR.org’s Women Around the World blog in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
We blogged for Huffington Post Impact on the progress made on women’s financial inclusion since 1995, the year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for action.
A profile of our Leadership and Diversity for Innovation program which helps financial institutions serving low-income women develop useful, sustainable products to increase women’s financial inclusion.
Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian participated in a panel to answer “is microfinance – as a tool to empower women – really working?”
Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian was cited in this Ernst & Young report on the barriers to women’s financial inclusion.
Tilman Ehrbeck mentions the roundtable we held this past April on digital savings products for low-income women entitled, “Going Digital: The key to women’s financial inclusion?”
Knowledge and Communications Manager Maura Hart shares stories of five women and the success they achieved through access to basic financial services.
When crisis strikes, whether it is the result of a natural disaster or political unrest, what can financial institutions that serve low-income clients do to support their clients and the community?
Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian is cited on the role of technology regarding the persistent gender gap in financial inclusion globally.
Our President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian was interviewed for an article in The Guardian about closing the persistent gender gap in access to finance.
Women’s World Banking shared the stage with Visa’s Doug Sabo at te U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s International Women’s Day Forum.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian discusses the prevalence of financial access inequality between genders for the Trust Women Conference.
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.
Our president and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian spoke with Devex Impact about how access to financial services has tremendous potential to improve prosperity and security — especially for women — if done correctly.
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2014, our President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian was featured on Huffington Post’s ImpactX page reflecting on ‘invisible’ women who need access to finance.
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
Dexex Impact interviewed Women’s World Banking’s President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian as part of the #SheBuilds campaign. In this interview, she talks about why financial inclusion is so important to women.
Investing in Women: The Role of Finance in Women’s Empowerment Date: Wednesday March 12, 2014 Time: 8-9 a.m. PST Venue: Webinar Register Now → Despite significant progress through global commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment, developed and developing countries still face significant challenges in ensuring the equal treatment of
CFR | CFR Fellow Isobel Coleman writes about savings, financial inclusion and her panel conversation with Mary Ellen Iskenderian
Isobel Coleman blogged about a recent panel conversation she moderated between Mary Ellen Iskenderian (Women’s World Banking) and Steve Hollingsworth (Freedom from Hunger) on the role of savings in financial inclusion.
Women’s World Banking guest blogs on NextBillion about the necessity of gender performance measurement in microfinance.
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.
We just concluded our Building Women-Focused Finance: The Global Experience conference in Amman and we are so excited about the quality of the presenters and the level of engagement from the audience of over 300 people from around the world. As Mary Ellen Iskenderian, our president and CEO, said in
Our travel program recently returned from a ten day trip to India visiting our network members Ananya, FWWB, Ujjivan and SEWA Bank. One of the travelers shares his photo journal.
Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian saw down for an interview with Yahoo! Finance’s The Daily Ticker blogger Aaron Tusk during the 2013 TEDxWallStreet event.
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
Women’s World Banking is honored to award its 2013 Excellence in Leadership Award to Microfund for Women for championing women’s roles in the success of the organization.
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.
HERfinance—which BSR launched in 2012 as a pilot project in India as part of its broader efforts to empower women in the global economy—has already reached nearly 8,000 workers in the readymade garment sector.
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.
Women’s World Banking’s work in rural finance in Latin America and mobile technology as an alternative delivery channel was featured on the recently released report by the UN Foundation and ExxonMobil Foundation.
Women’s World Banking is proud to announce that the Portfolio Analytics Toolkitwas featured in the company’s 2012 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.
WATCH THE VIDEO: On July 17, 2013, Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian sat down with Esther Ugbodaga to discuss financial exclusion in the African content, the importance of financially empowering women and Women’s World Banking’s work in Nigeria.
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 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.
Women’s World Banking conducted a gender study in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Samoa to explore the issues women face in order to provide them with effective financial services.
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.
In 2012, Women’s World Banking turned to understanding women’s financial barriers and opportunities in the Pacific Islands for the first time with support from the New Zealand Aid Programme.
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.
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.
If we add another solution to the mix, women have an even better chance to move from oppression to opportunity — economic empowerment. If women are to have a voice in the direction of their lives, they need basic financial services, including savings and insurance.
‘It all started at the world conference of the international women’s year in Mexico City in 1975. There I met with Esther Afua Ocloo from Ghana. She shared her stories about the position of market women in the capital city Accra and their need for economic empowerment.’
“Can you imagine if the only product that your bank offered you was a loan?
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
Something decidedly new is on the horizon in Africa since the mid-1990s. Many African economies appear to have turned the corner and have moved towards a path of faster and steadier economic growth. Their performance between 1995 and 2005 has reversed the economic collapses that marked the period from 1975 to 1985, and the stagnation that was rife between 1985 and 1995. Moreover, per capita income is now also increasing in tandem with other developing countries.
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.
The Toolkit for Developing a Financial Risk Management (FRM) Policy is the leading practical, step-by-step guide that assists MFIs in developing effective risk management strategies and policies.
This paper highlights recent advances in minimizing foreign exchange risk in microfinance, via both local currency lending by international investors, and risk hedging by microfinance institutions.