Empowering Women through Digital Finance in Pakistan
While financial inclusion has been on the rise globally, driven by mobile phones and the internet, the gap in account ownership between men and women has stagnated. In fact, according to the World Bank’s 2017 Global Findex, the gender gap has widened in some countries, including Pakistan.
At financial institutions, Pakistani men outnumber women account holders by 68 percent. In mobile banking, the gap widens to 78 percent.
Since FINCA Microfinance Bank Limited (“FINCA Pakistan“) re-branded in 2013, it has been working tirelessly to bring financial solutions closer to women. Last year, FINCA Pakistan reached an agreement to provide SimSim, its digital payments solution, to Ghar Par, a professional home beauty service. Ghar Par provides a platform for women to offer their beauty services to other women at their homes in Islamabad and Lahore.
The partnership between FINCA Pakistan and Ghar Par provides beauticians with SimSim accounts. SimSim, Pakistan’s first free-to-use mobile wallet, was developed in partnership with Finja, a Pakistan-based fintech company. It enables Ghar Par’s employees to make and receive payments digitally. Designed to be as easy to use as possible, the product minimizes the hassle for women who may be less familiar with mobile technology or banking.
In a country where only 7 percent of women have bank accounts, digital platforms could be transformative. SimSim is, quite literally, the first bank account ever held by many of the women who use the service, including many Ghar Par employees. It solves several barriers to financial inclusion for women in Pakistan, including accessibility, security, privacy and convenience. Women employees can now electronically transfer their earnings without the inconvenience or risk of carrying cash back to the head office.
Further, 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.