With the right business training and equipped with a mobile phone as well as financing options, women can become financially independent and feel much safer. Mobile technology can be a vehicle for savings, insurance, payments and a way to obtain credit."
But, she says, it's not enough. "Efforts need to span from improving the regulatory environment to better educating clients on their financial rights and enabling them to fully understand the choices available."
"The majority of individuals around the world without formal bank accounts are women. In the developing world, 63 percent of women lack accounts, versus 54 percent of men, writes Jeffrey Riecke of the Center for Financial Inclusion. "Mobile financial services offer a path to inclusion given that 1.7 of the 2.5 billion unbanked own mobile phones. However, the path is longer for women, as the majority of mobile phone owners are men."
This disparity between how men and women can access financial services is why Visa, GSMA's mWomen program, and Bankable Frontier Associates presented collective, research that prescribes how best to design mobile financial services to reach the poorest women at last month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Their joint report, "Unlocking the Potential: Women and Mobile Financial Services in Emerging Markets," highlights how women, who often manage a household's finances, are consistently overlooked by groups deploying mobile financial services. Their need for mobile banking to help manage the large number of small family transactions made every day, as well as their potential to be a very large client base for mobile money services, make them important stakeholders.
The research team has been working with women in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania over the past several months to better understand what it takes for these women to organize their family’s finances and how mobile financial services can make those responsibilities easier.
One of the research partners, the GSMA mWomen Program, has a big goal: to “reduce the mobile phone gender gap by 50 percent by 2014, bringing mobile connectivity and services to more than 150 million women in emerging markets. This will be achieved through a combination of research, grants for mobile operators and NGOs, toolkits, and knowledge sharing through the mWomen online community, seminars, and the mWomen Working Group, which includes more than 30 members from the mobile industry.”
If mobile operators carefully consider women's needs in their product design and distribution plans, they might just reach the scale and stability they seek, while linking women to the formal financial services they need.