Why it takes more than microloans to empower women and promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth.
“In her book, Mary Ellen Iskenderian reminds us to ask where our bank finance flows and how much is used for building unequal wealth or destructive institutions that harm humans and the natural environment. How do we promote ‘nurturing finance’ that eliminates violence and inequalities and brings peace to the people and society? Women’s financial inclusion, with its focus on the community rather than the individual, is part of the answer.” –Ela Bhatt, founder of India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
“Mary Ellen Iskenderian makes a persuasive case for why giving women access to financial services will transform their lives and their societies. This book combines inspiring stories, rigorous evidence, and decades of wisdom from working on financial inclusion. A great read that will make you feel hopeful about the transformative power of finance for women.” –Minouche Shafik, Director, London School of Economics; author of What We Owe Each Other
Nearly one billion women have been completely excluded from the formal financial system. Without even a bank account in their own names, they lack the basic services most of us take for granted—secure ways to save money, pay bills, and get credit. Exclusion from the formal financial system means they are economic outsiders, unable to benefit from, or contribute to, economic growth. Microfinance has been hailed as an economic lifeline for women in developing countries—but, as Mary Ellen Iskenderian shows in this book, it takes more than microloans to empower women and promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth.
Iskenderian, who leads a nonprofit that works to give women access to the financial system, argues that the banking industry should view these one billion “unbanked” women not as charity cases but as a business opportunity: a lucrative new market of small business owners, heads of households, and purchasers of financial products and services. Iskenderian shows how financial inclusion can be transformative for the lives of women in developing countries, describing, among other things, the informal moneylenders and savings clubs women have relied on, the need for both financial and digital literacy (and access) as mobile phones become a means of banking, and the importance of women’s property rights. She goes on to make the business case for financial inclusion, exploring the ways that financial institutions are adapting to help women build wealth, access capital, and manage risks. Banks can do the right thing—and make money while doing so—and all of us can benefit.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian is President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, a global nonprofit devoted to giving more low-income women access to financial tools and resources they need for both security and prosperity.