Spanning operations in 35 countries and comprised of 62 diverse financial services providers, Women’s World Banking’s Global Network is the only network focused on driving inclusive access to and usage of financial services for low-income women across the globe.
In honor of Women’s History Month in March, we are proudly shining a spotlight on 10 of our Network Members with milestone anniversaries and their impressive accomplishments to reach the nearly one billion unbanked and underserved women worldwide. Through women-centric products and services, capacity-building programs, advocacy, and gender equity initiatives, our Network Members have tirelessly championed financial inclusion, keeping the needs of low-income women at the forefront of everything they do. As we work towards a more inclusive and equitable future, we look forward to continued partnership with our Network Members.
In the second of this blog series, Women’s World Banking is pleased to recognize the following Network Members and their milestone anniversaries:
Fundación delamujer (Fundación): Fundación delamujer, Colombia’s largest and most representative microfinance institution by branch network, celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2021. Fundación works to advance financial inclusion for low-income women across the country, providing them with the credit and insurance products, as well as financial education training, needed to transform their lives.
Al Amana: Al Amana is Morocco’s leading microfinance institution and celebrates its 25-year anniversary this year. It strives to reach the largest possible number of beneficiaries, both urban and rural, through a range of financial products, including loans, money transfers, and insurance, and non-financial services, such as financial education, business training, and marketing support.
CARD Bank: Based in the Philippines, CARD Bank also celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. A leader in inclusive finance and community-based social development, it aims to enrich and empower women and their families through financial services, business development and capacity-building programs, and other non-financial support services.
Kashf Foundation (Kashf): Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani microfinance institution committed to creating a poverty-free and gender-equitable world, is celebrating its 25th year of operations this year. Through a combination of financial products, safety nets, capacity-building initiatives, and social advocacy, Kashf creates an enabling environment for women micro-entrepreneurs, helping them to become active agents of social and economic change in Pakistan.
Rising to the Challenge: Network Members Respond to COVID-19
As COVID-19 triggered economic shocks around the world, low-income women bore the brunt, suddenly finding themselves without employment and without financial safety nets. Amid their own struggles to keep afloat, our Network Members focused efforts on how best to serve low-income women clients during this challenging period.
- Fundación leveraged several of its unique offerings to support women entrepreneurs grappling with COVID-19’s economic toll and help them generate income. Its digital marketplace, La Plaza Morada, allowed clients to buy, sell, and market their products online, and its Experience Centers provided women entrepreneurs with an exclusive coworking space where they could meet with clients and suppliers.
- During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Al Amana launched Tamwil Attadamoune, specialized financing aimed at helping clients resume or relaunch their businesses. With Tamwil Attadamoune, clients can adjust the terms of their existing loans, for example by extending the loan duration.
- As a response to the pandemic, CARD Bank secured a $15 million loan from the International Finance Corporation to provide working capital to women-led and women-owned MSMEs in the Philippines, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. In helping these women-businesses sustain operations and safeguard jobs, CARD Bank has positioned them for a successful post-pandemic recovery.
Overcoming Gender Biases Toward Greater Financial Inclusion
In their decades of operation, our Network Members have determinedly worked to counter numerous gender and social biases that limit women’s financial inclusion.
- Only 7% of women in Pakistan have access to formal financial services, a challenge further compounded by endemic social and cultural barriers that discriminate against women. To change societal perceptions, attitudes, and practices, Kashf has developed an innovative series of social advocacy interventions targeting both men and women. From radio programs to TV shows, public service messages to street theater performances, these interventions raise awareness on issues, such as gender discrimination, education for girls, and child marriage, to drive positive social change on women’s economic empowerment.
- Through its program with the Moroccan Ministry of Crafts and Social and Solidarity Economy, Al Amana is working to encourage women’s participation in the labor force and create productive income-generating activities for women. Participants benefit from comprehensive training, acquiring the technical skills needed for craft trades, as well as business management and marketing skills.
- To address disparities in women’s wages and access to financial and educational services in Colombia, Fundación empowers women entrepreneurs by helping them develop their business skills. Through the Ovante digital platform, women entrepreneurs can learn how to manage their finances, price products and services, and improve their marketing efforts to take their businesses to the next level, while also developing their digital capabilities.
Embracing the Digital Revolution to Drive Inclusive Access to Finance
As technology has revolutionized the financial sector, many of our Network Members have adopted digital financial services, recognizing their potential to level the financial inclusion playing field for low-income women.
- CARD Bank is particularly proud of its efforts to incorporate technological innovations into its high-touch business model. CARD Bank built its digital banking services from the ground up, ensuring they were rooted in and reflective of its clients’ needs. For example, its konek2CARD app allows clients to deposit and withdraw money, transfer funds, pay loans, and conduct other transactions from their smartphones, saving them the time of going to the bank.
- The financial sector’s digital revolution has inspired Fundación to undergo its own transformation, offering all of its products and services digitally to improve its customers’ experience. Fundación introduced Fidebot, a chatbot accessed through its website and Facebook Messenger that serves as a 24/7 resource, allowing customers to learn more about products and apply for loans with ease and convenience. Fundación also launched FidelinaLab, a laboratory to design and implement innovative, inclusive solutions for its urban and rural clients.
Promoting Gender Equity from Within
In addition to serving their women customers, our Network Members have prioritized equal opportunity in the workplace, ensuring that their staff and leadership reflect the very market segment that they are aiming to serve.
- Committed to workplace diversity, Kashf has successfully recruited and retained both women and men in its workforce and is the only microfinance institution in Pakistan with a 50% gender ratio across all staff levels. To help female employees manage their worklife balance, Kashf has set up daycare centers in six of its branches. It also provides female employees with comprehensive training on decision-making and negotiation to build the leadership pipeline of female talent within the institution. In addition, Kashf conducts a yearly review of its performance and compensation management system to remove any inherent assessment biases and ensure that its female employees are not limited by a glass ceiling.
- Fundación has also prioritized gender parity, requiring that at least half of its staff and managers must be women and making it a key performance indicator for the institution.
Forging Connections and Collaboration through the Women’s World Banking Global Network
Women’s World Banking is proud to have worked alongside its global Network Members to design effective and innovative financial and products for women, as well as share market insights and provide leadership training opportunities to help Network Members champion serving the low-income women’s segment in their respective markets.
- For Al Amana, the Global Network offers a unique platform to connect with other industry leaders championing women’s financial inclusion around the world. For example, Al Amana hosted the 2005 Annual Women’s World Banking Global Meeting on “Leading and Managing Change” and in 2012 hosted graduates of our Women in Leadership Program, with participants from seven institutions from seven countries.
- As a member of the Global Network, CARD Bank has benefited from Women’s World Banking’s technical expertise and assistance, particularly on savings mobilization. As a result, CARD Bank was able to design and launch several savings products, such as the Pledge Savings Account in which customers commit to weekly deposits made at group meetings. CARD Bank also participated in Women’s World Banking’s She Counts cohort where it had the opportunity to share its own experiences and insights on designing effective savings products for women with other members of the Global Network.
- Through the Global Network, Kashf Foundation participated in several capacity-building and leadership development programs that have improved its ability to reach unbanked and underserved women. The Global Network has also provided a valuable platform to showcase Kashf Foundation’s work in the financial inclusion space, generating greater visibility for the organization and its clients and staff.
- In partnership with Women’s World Banking, Fundación launched a series of agricultural credit products designed to meet the needs of rural women and help them grow their businesses. Building on this experience, Fundación has also shared best practices and lessons learned with other financial service providers on developing more inclusive lending strategies and financial products for women in rural communities.