Gender Mainstreaming in Financial services

Sam Daley Harris of Micro Credit Summit Campaign

GAMEchange advocates for:

an inclusive financial sector where gender justice is mainstreamed in all financial institutions from banks through to community managed funds and these institutions work together to promote gender justice and support empowerment of clients.

Why gender mainstreaming in financial services? gender justice case

Financial services have proven potential to initiate a series of ‘virtuous spirals’ of economic empowerment, increased well-being for women and their families and wider social and political empowerment. Financial services can enable men to provide for their families and work with women on an equal basis for household welath creation. Although no ‘magic bullet’, theycan be a significant contribution to equitable development and civil society strengthening.

BUT actual contribution to empowerment is often limited:

  • Credit is also debt. Savings, loan interest and insurance premiums are potentially foregone investment in businesses, children’s education and health or necessary consumption.
  • In many cases women continue to earn very low incomes in increasingly saturated markets.
  • Women’s access to even these very small incomes may lead to men withdrawing their contribution to household expenses.
  • Group formation for debt repayment takes up women’s precious time and does not necessarily lead to changes in women’s status.

See more on evidence of gender justice contribution

Why gender mainstreaming for financial service providers (FSPs)? business case

FSPs have a choice – there are many strategies which can be both profitable and promote gender justice,and bringing about changes which benefit men as well as women:

  • Women are a very large underserved potential market. Women not a minority but a marginalised majority in most countries
  • Women have proved to be better savers and also loan repayers than men in many contexts.
  • Empowered women are able to use and pay for more profitable products
  • Failure to challenge destructive aspects of ‘masculine’ behaviour and support men’s responsibility for household wellbeing entails serious risks for FSPs.
  • Gender diversity on boards of companies leads to better management decisions
  • Promotion of empowerment and wealth creation of clients (women as well as men) is good for brand image, particularly in the current environment of mistrust and scepticism about the financial sector

BUT gender issues, and specifically women’s empowerment, continue to be marginalised in design of services in most FSPs. Gender-blind short-term strategies promoted for commercial profitability further marginalise women, exacerbate negative impacts of debt and undermine contribution to wealth creation and development.

See more on strategies for sustainability and commercial profitability.

Gender Justice Protocol for financial services

There are many possible strategies to increase gender equality and women’s empowerment can be increased. Many of these can be financially sustainable and even profitable. The precise forms gender policy should take will depend on the particular service model, the particular client market and the context in which FSPs and clients operate. However gender policy does need to go further than a few ‘female products’ and a bit of gender training or addition of health and literacy programmes for women.

A possible framework is provided by the Gender Justice Protocol presented to Asia Pacific Microcredit Summit 2008 and Global MicroCredit Summit in Valladolid 2011. It was based on discussions at  national and international workshops with over 350 organisations since 1998 sponsored by DFID, USAID, ILO, IFAD, UNIFEM, Oxfam and other European INGOs. It has been signed by over 400 participants including Mohammed Yunus, Sam Daley Harris and heads of most Asian Micro-finance Networks. The Protocol was adapted for Latin America and endorsed by over 100 participants and organisations at WEMAN workshops organised by Oxfam Novib in Quito, presentations at the Latin America and Caribbean Summit and Village Banking Forum in Colombia June-August 2009.

See: Gender Justice protocol presented to Asia Pacific Microcredit Summit 2011

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The Protocol promotes:

Elements of the Protocol were further discussed and developed in work with UNIFEM, ILO, Microcredit Summit Campaign and IFAD:

Gender Empowerment Road Map for Responsible Finance : a FALS-based approach

Since 2001 Linda Mayoux has worked with organisations in India, Pakistan, Sudan and Philippines to use and adapt a ‘Financial Action Learning System’ approach as part of a ‘Gender Empowerment Road Map for Responsible Finance’ using participatory client empowerment and gender mainstreaming tools. Use of the FALS empowerment tools specifically for gender mainstreaming is conceived in terms of 7 key stages in parallel with other FALS activities:

  • Stage 1 FALS Client Empowerment and Gender Review: To classify the outcomes from GALS Gender Empowerment Diamond and/or Happy Family Tree into CEDAW framework.
  • Stage 2: FALS gender empowerment with staff : Use of FALS tools with staff for personal gender change and so that staff appreciate the gender challenges in their own lives – so they learn with clients rather than preaching.
  • Stage 3 Organisational Gender Vision: Gender Empowerment Diamond to develop priorities for the organisational gender policy to be integrated into Human Resources Management and core staff training.
  • Stage 4 Gender Analysis of existing products and services: Review of existing products and services using the indicators identified in Stage 1 and an adapted versions of the  Gender and Micro-finance Checklist
  • Stage 5 Organisational Gender Empowerment Vision Highway: participatory strategic planning using Organisational Empowerment Vision Highway Tool based on outcomes from Stages  1-4 and loan performance/monitoring using Happy Family Tree.
  • Stage 6 Implementation of Organisational Gender Empowerment Vision Highway: mainstreaming FALS gender empowerment tools into staff training, recruitment and responsibilities.
  • Stage 7 Gender innovation in products and services : Using product innovation Challenge Action Trees and adding new products and services on milestones on  timebound Organisational Empowerment Vision Highway. Analysing and adapting the outcomes using the adapted Gender and Micro-finance Checklist