Amplifying Gender Transformative Impact from Women’s Financial Inclusion
This project part of a cluster of three projects jointly developed by the Employment and Growth (E&G) and the Agriculture and Food Security (AFS) programs to assess how financial sector innovations can have a gender transformative impact, beyond improving women’s access to finance. In particular, it seeks to explore the role of intra-household bargaining and gender dynamics in shaping the take-up, usage, and impact of financial innovations on women entrepreneurs and small-holder farmers.
In recent years, developing countries have made impressive progress expanding access to financial services. Growth has been driven by private sector innovations that drive down the cost of financial intermediation, as well as concerted support of policy makers and donors, operating under the assumption that financial inclusion will spur economic growth and reduce poverty. This assumption is supported by a body of evidence showing that increasing access to the formal financial sector can increase savings, investment, and income. While this evidence is encouraging, critical knowledge gaps remain. First, studies with the most generalizable results do not identify which types of financial services are most transformative. Second, there is a risk that at least some of the services are leaving women behind. A recent meta- analysis of savings programs has shown that significant benefits are concentrated among men and efforts to replicate positive results for women have failed to deliver benefits at large scale. A third gap is that much research on analysis of financial inclusion has focused on intermediate outcomes like savings, rather than direct benefits to women including their welfare, empowerment, self-sufficiency and voice. The project will address the question of how different types of financial products impact women’s welfare, including income, labor supply, personal goals and decision making power, as well as what enabling factors are required to make financial inclusion gender transformative. This project will use a mixed methods approach, using existing and primary data to examine which approaches to women’s financial inclusion have the largest impacts on women’s welfare and their empowerment. The project will measure women’s empowerment at 4 levels; personal, economic, household and socio-political. Key results and lessons from the project will inform the design of financial inclusion approaches that have greater impacts on women’s welfare and their empowerment.