SBP launches policy to close the gender gap in financial inclusion


KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Friday launched a gender mainstreaming policy titled “Equality Bank: Closing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion”, which aims to reduce the gender gap in financial inclusion and improve women’s access to financial services, according to one claim.

The policy was unveiled by the Honorable President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, at an event in Aiwan-e-Sadr.

In his remarks, the president said the government recognizes the financial inclusion of women as a key driver to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the country.

The president added that the stated policy of the government is to promote the inclusion of women by providing equitable opportunities of access to financial services to all segments of the population and that the BoE’s policy of SBP will be instrumental in achieving this. goal.

In his welcoming remarks, while highlighting the policy context, SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir said closing the gender gap in financial inclusion has remained a priority for SBP as the mainstreaming the role of women has many social, economic and financial benefits. for the whole country.

To this end, the first step is to improve the empowerment of women by giving them access to entrepreneurial opportunities by having a formal bank account.

Governor Baqir added that the advancements in branchless banking have played an important role in improving access to finance for people from various socio-economic backgrounds, without the added cost of setting up structures. of brick and mortar.

As a result, as of December 2020, 62 percent of adults have a bank account showing significant growth compared to 45 percent in 2017.

As part of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (SNIF), a target has been set to ensure that at least 20 million women must have an active bank account by 2023. However, despite the overall growth of the financial inclusion, the gender gap continued to persist.

He explained that as of December 2020, only 14.5 million active accounts were owned by women, compared to 38.7 million active accounts held by men.

Governor Baqir said SBP recently introduced a digital customer onboarding framework for banks, which enables the opening of bank accounts digitally without the need to visit a bank branch and with simplified documentary requirements. .

The framework provides a convenient way to open an account for, among others, self-employed or unemployed women, freelancers, and recipients of digitally overseas remittances with minimal documentation requirements.

He said he was convinced that this initiative would also help achieve SBP’s financial inclusion goals by bringing excluded segments of society into the formal banking sector.

SBP Deputy Governor Sima Kamil said in her opening remarks that women, especially in Pakistan, face distinct barriers to accessing formal financial services.

While explaining the characteristics of the policy, she stressed that the BoE policy is the first gender mainstreaming policy in the financial sector, which will introduce a gender lens into our policies and practices.

The BoE’s policy identifies five key pillars: (i) Improving gender diversity in financial institutions and their access points; (ii) Development and marketing of products and services focused on women; (iii) The creation of women’s counters in bank branches for better facilitation of female clients; (iv) Solid collection of data disaggregated by sex and definition of objectives; (v) Institutionalize a Gender Policy Forum at the SBP.

As a result, specific objectives have been assigned. Financial institutions are required to increase the rate of women employed in the workforce to at least 20% by December 2024.

To improve female-to-female relationships at the retail level, branchless banking (BB) providers should be tasked with increasing the BB agent ratio to 10% in their agent portfolios.

Likewise, dedicated and trained female champions will be placed at 75% of all banks to help guide clients by June 2024.

In addition, all banks will provide gender awareness training to their staff, both men and women, to eliminate implicit gender biases and improve their understanding of customer demands.

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