Engaging with the private sector to empower women: What to Measure and How to Build the Business Case for Change

FINCA Afghanistan’s women-only bank branch is featured as a business case in a brief developed by the Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF) for their AWEF Learning Series in partnership with The SEEP Network.

The AWEF seeks to stimulate increased women’s economic empowerment (WEE) through a market systems development (MSD) approach. The purpose of the learning series is to catalyze discussion and engagement on the topic and share current initiatives, good practices and lessons amongst and between donors and practitioners in WEE and MSD.

FINCA Impact Finance (FIF) is taking bold action to change things for the better. In April 2018, its Afghanistan subsidiary opened a women-only branch, providing women in the community with a full range of financial services.

As the business case highlights “The women-only branch achieved profitability within nine months of opening (three months faster than the average FINCA Afghanistan branch) and serves 1,000 clients as of the end of 2018. Its portfolio-at-risk (PAR) – a measure used to assess how much of an outstanding loan portfolio is late in repayment by 30 days or more – stood at only 0.64% in the same time period, putting it among FINCA Afghanistan’s best-performing branches in terms of portfolio quality”.

Zar Wardak, FIF’s regional director for the Middle East & South Asia and chair of its Diversity & Inclusion Management Team expresses that “Shutting women out of the financial system is both an injustice and a huge missed opportunity. The women-only branch is helping unlock that potential by providing responsible finance.”

The case also approaches digital technology examples, seen as key in FINCA Impact to expand the access to financial services for women.

With only 33.6% of women in Jordan owning bank accounts, Dinarak (an e-wallet provider in the Fintech space in Jordan) saw the female customer base as one with extremely high potential for growth, due to its low levels of financial inclusion, and was looking for ways to increase the appeal of its product to female customers. Through its partnership with AWEF, Dinarak was able to establish the first female mobile money agent network in the Middle East, registering more than 12,309 e-wallets during the 18-month pilot period. The e-wallet, in turn, gave women access to a simple financial product that would allow them to control their earnings and savings and improve their ability to make independent spending decisions, as well as save money through lower transaction costs when paying bills”.

The focus on empowering women starts internally. In 2018, FIF launched a Diversity & Inclusion strategy to ensure greater gender balance at all levels of the company—from senior management to frontline interactions with clients. Efforts within the network keep emphasizing in creating the right financial conditions for those communities we serve.

Many more interesting ideas were shared on this great collaboration from the SEEP Network and AWEF, access the document by clicking the HERE.