Research shows that crises disproportionately impact women. The COVID-19 pandemic has been no different. FINCA has long understood that empowering women allows them, their families and communities to be more resilient when crises hit. That’s why FINCA focuses on developing women-centric products and services.
Through Village Banking™ FINCA was intent from the very beginning on reaching low-income women with finance through group loans. “Village Banks” are groups of low-income entrepreneurs who come together to share and guarantee one another’s loans. The group loans allow people in the developing world, for whom traditional loans are too large and too expensive, to access capital to invest in and grow their small businesses. Today in Latin America where FINCA’s work began, 70 percent of our clients are women and 60 percent of all clients have a group loan.
More recently, FINCA launched a specialized loan in Kosovo designed exclusively for women. The product supports thousands of women involved in agriculture and business and comes with personalized business training for the women entrepreneurs. FINCA Kosovo also runs FemEdu, a training program intended to further empower women entrepreneurs. FemEdu targets FINCA clients and non-clients alike with training in a range of skills, including business strategy, marketing, finance, accounting and communication.
Meanwhile, FINCA Afghanistan created FINCA’s first women-only branch. In a country where women are especially vulnerable due to marginalization, weak economic participation and discrimination, FINCA is at the forefront of driving economic equality. Sixty-one percent of FINCA Afghanistan borrowers are women, and tailored loan products are made available for women-run microenterprises. The women-only branch is staffed exclusively by women, creating a safe space for women clients to transact, socialize and receive support. It offers the full range of FINCA Afghanistan’s financial products, including small enterprise and agricultural loans, as well as Sharia-compliant loans for Islamic clients.
FINCA also is focused on using digital solutions to reach women. In Pakistan, where only 7 percent of women have bank accounts, an e-wallet called SimSim is bridging the financial access gap. SimSim enables women to make and receive payments digitally, providing security, privacy and convenience in a country where women are still largely excluded from the marketplace. Women-run businesses, such as the home beauty service Ghar Par, are already benefiting from this service. FINCA Pakistan partnered with Ghar Par in 2019 to provide its women beauticians with SimSim accounts, the very first financial account for many of the women. In addition to facilitating financial transactions, digital platforms such as SimSim, offer FINCA Pakistan and other financial service providers an opportunity to understand the payment behavior of users so that they can tailor credit and other products that further strengthen women’s inclusion into the financial system.