Digital Finance Key to Women’s Empowerment in Agri, Providers Ought to Take Notice

A report from Feed the Future based on research conducted under the oversight of the Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) program emphasizes that although financial tools and services have the potential to strengthen the economic power of women in agriculture, not enough attention is granted to women in the design and utilization of these tools and services.

A report from Feed the Future based on research conducted under the oversight of the Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) program emphasizes that although financial tools and services have the potential to strengthen the economic power of women in agriculture, not enough attention is granted to women in the design and utilization of these tools and services. 

Cultural and gender norms create barriers for women in accessing digital financial services (DFS). They can negatively affect the perception of women as potential customers by DFS providers. Furthermore; limited mobility, mistrust from male relatives, and gender-based violence discourage women from exercising agency over financial decisions. 

A literature review of 54 documents (global, African, and Asian) and interviews with key institutions to collect evidence for how DFS are used to engage women for the purpose of increasing their economic empowerment in agriculture and beyond production activities showed that:

  •        Women can benefit from digital payments by gaining more free time and money, increased capacity to save and invest, links to higher value markets, improved household bargaining power and control over their own finances, and less vulnerability to environmental shocks. 
  •        Women save more and have more agency over their income when they use digital savings accounts. However, they continue to prefer cash for commercial transactions.
  •        Alternative credit scoring systems used by DFS providers may increase women’s access to lending.
  •        New DFS services such as crowdfarming and pay-as-you-go approaches show promise in increasing women’s access to credit and helping women develop credit history.

       Although there is some evidence that digital insurance, especially index insurance, can increase women’s access to agricultural insurance services, there is no evidence of these services being successfully provided at scale at market rates.

  •        DFS can help bypass cultural constraints on women’s mobility that limit access to financial services.
  •        Despite a growing number of sophisticated high-tech approaches to expand access to DFS, simple, low-tech approaches continue to serve users. 

Based on the lessons learned from the research, the report calls on DFS providers and implementing partners to enable women to benefit from digital financial services by:

  •        Targeting women and monitoring their uptake and use.
  •        Developing a business case for reaching women.
  •        Using a human-centered design that considers gender, social, and cultural norms.
  •        Training women in digital and financial literacy.

Read the full report here.

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