FINCA Opens Bank Branch for Women Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan
FINCA Impact Finance officially launched its first women-only bank branch in Afghanistan on April 7. Operated by FINCA Afghanistan, one of 20 subsidiaries making up the FINCA Impact Finance network, the branch is staffed by an all-female team of financial professionals including a branch manager, credit supervisor, management information systems operator, cashier and five credit officers. The new branch is located in Kabul and will exclusively serve female clientele, providing a range of services including business loans for women.
Branch Will Provide Business Loans for Women in Afghanistan
Clients at the women-only branch will have access to FINCA Afghanistan’s full range of responsible financial services, including small enterprise and agriculture loans as well as Sharia-compliant loans. The branch will also offer the Women Murabah Group Loan targeted toward microbusinesses owned and operated by women.
“The women-only branch is a major milestone for financial inclusion in Afghanistan”, said Zar Wardak, FINCA’s regional director for the Middle East & South Asia.
In addition to offering responsible financial services, the women-only branch will serve as a public space for Afghan women, including but not limited to entrepreneurs.
“Not only will we provide women entrepreneurs with business loans, but our branch will be a space for women to share experiences, knowledge and entrepreneurship opportunities. Through the branch, we’ll also help expand financial literacy among women, something that is much needed in Afghanistan”, Wardak continued.
Helping Close the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion
The women-only branch is part of a broad effort by the organization to promote women’s economic empowerment in the country. According to the World Bank’s Findex 2017, only 7.2% of adult Afghan women currently have an account at a formal banking institution (compared to 14.9% of adults overall). FINCA Impact Finance is working to address that imbalance.
“FINCA Afghanistan has been a catalyst for women’s economic empowerment since we launched in 2003. Nearly 60% of our borrowers are women, and we’re always striving to increase that number. The women-only branch is just one part of a broad effort to expand financial inclusion to women in Afghanistan”, said Wardak.
In addition to providing gender-sensitive financial products, including business loans for women, FINCA Afghanistan also emphasizes gender-equitable hiring practices, employing three female branch managers and more than 100 female employees overall.
Launched in 2003, FINCA Afghanistan now serves more than 25,000 clients from 22 branches across the country—offering a range of products and services specially designed to meet the needs of women, ethnic minorities and returning refugees.
While promoting gender equality is important for social and ethical reasons, FINCA Impact Finance also recognizes that empowering women is good for economic growth overall, and for the commercial success of the company.
“Women are some of FINCA Afghanistan’s best customers. They are responsible with money and tend to repay their loans”, Wardak reminded.