19, January, 2015

Making Women’s Work Visible: Finance for Rural Women

Women’s World Banking argues that serving rural women in Latin America is important for rural families and viable for financial institutions, but that it will take much more than replicating a loan or savings product that has been successful in an urban setting.

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Globally more than one billion women have no interaction with a bank or financial service provider. Rural women face unique challenges and limitations. They have, on average, lower levels of literacy and education than men, and generally have less freedom within households and communities. At the same time, women are responsible for managing the household, raising the children, contributing to some part of the family business as well as engaging in community activities more than men. Recent changes in some rural economies have also pushed women to look for salaried work outside the home. However, women’s lack of access to credit, the tools to run a farm (supplies and equipment), and markets inhibit their productivity and potential, a potential that financial institutions are well-positioned to tap.

In Latin America approximately 61 percent of adults do not have an account at a formal financial institution, slightly higher than the rest of the developing world (58 percent.) The rate for high-income countries is 11 percent. Only 35 percent of women in the region have access to financial services; presumably the number for rural women would be quite low.

Financial institutions interested in broadening their offering to rural areas, especially to women, will have to overcome some geographic and cultural challenges and it will take time to make changes in these remote areas. However, reaching rural clients offers growth in competitive markets where urban areas are saturated and concerns about overindebtedness are rising. Women’s World Banking believes that inclusion of women as a long-term strategy makes institutions more competitive and offers a much sought after growth opportunity.

Publication Date: November, 2014
Publisher: Women's World Banking (WWB)

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