Gender-Transformative Solutions during the COVID era and beyond
FinEquity’s new learning agenda, developed by drawing on engagement with our membership base and deep-dive consultations with leading research and programmatic stakeholders, is organized around three main learning themes: Gender Transformative Solutions, Digitally-Enabled Financial Inclusion, and Impact Pathways. This is the second post in our series on FinEquity’s new learning themes, launched in 2020. In this post, Nisha Singh, the Thematic Lead, shares an overview of the Gender-Transformative Solutions theme, how it focuses on supporting the financial system to serve more women and how members can engage.
As we step into a new year with a slightly better outlook on the COVID-19 vaccine front, the news on the economic impact of the pandemic, especially for women, is not so great as the crisis has exacerbated issues related to intimate partner violence, mobility, livelihood opportunities, among others. The Fuller Project recently reported that the pandemic is pushing India’s microfinance sector to the brink and women, who comprise 85% of the clients, are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Even as governments around the world rolled out digital cash transfers to their citizens to provide temporary relief, women remain largely unable to benefit from these transfers due to the existing digital gender divide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shed even more light on how financial markets that have often been represented and treated as gender-neutral domains are deeply gendered, resulting in vastly different experiences and outcomes for men and women.
Our goal is to build on FinEquity’s work over the last two years, which has contributed to the wider recognition and acknowledgment of the critical role that social norms play in shaping women’s financial inclusion and livelihood opportunities. By drawing on lessons from other sectors, such as public health and FinEquity members, the dialogue on gendered social norms has progressed significantly. In addition, as we have moved away from a supply-side view of microfinance to a multidimensional, customer-centric approach to financial inclusion at the sector level, the FinEquity community has identified the need to focus on supporting transformative solutions that not only increase women’s access to financial services but also provide them with the agency to make decisions about their lives and livelihoods.
What are our priorities within the Gender-Transformative Solutions theme and how are we addressing them?
Gender-transformative solutions for financial inclusion are focused on creating equitable financial systems that enable everyone, regardless of their gender, to overcome supply- and demand-side constraints and improve their financial and livelihood opportunities on equal terms. We are breaking down the learning theme into three sub-themes with associated learning questions that we will prioritize in the coming year following deep-dive consultations and discussions during the FinEquity2020 meeting.
The first sub-theme focuses on understanding what gendered social norms are at play and how they shape women’s financial needs, capacities, and behaviors in a specific context. This is an essential first step to develop effective and efficient strategies to address normative barriers.
Through webinars and blogs, we will introduce members to promising diagnostic tools and approaches that they can use. We will launch a working group to collaboratively adapt existing gender analysis and market-research approaches so that members can include norms diagnostics in their program preparation and implementation.
We will demonstrate the potential of norms-based interventions by showcasing examples of how different stakeholders have had a greater impact by working around social norms (also referred to as norm-aware), or by supporting shifts in norms (norm-transformative).
The second sub-theme builds on the idea that women are not a monolith and meeting their financial needs requires developing a more nuanced understanding of their preferences and behaviors, which are shaped by age, life stage, location, and contexts, among many other factors.
As we explore this sub-theme through existing segmentation tools used by different members, we plan to build member capacity by organizing a series of virtual hands-on workshops with the creators of these tools as well as members. We also plan to provide them with examples of gender-transformative solutions for specific segments of women through a brand-new podcast series, which will allow us to distill the key lessons learned.
The third sub-theme focuses on approaches to incentivizing financial service providers to proactively focus on women as clients.
We will begin by documenting cases of Financial Service Providers (FSP’s) that have successfully implemented a gender-inclusive approach to understand their incentives and motivations and help members replicate their success. Based on these examples, we will organize a dialogue to delve deeper into the potential advantages and implications of serving women within the financial system and how different stakeholders in the financial ecosystem can support this.
How can members actively participate in our Gender-Transformative Solutions theme?
As we embark on this exciting learning journey to promote gender-transformative solutions for financial inclusion, we would like to extend an invitation to share your work, shape the learning outputs, and collaborate with your peers on one or more of the learning sub-themes and questions that we have outlined here.
To kick off the learning theme conversations in 2021, we would like to hear from you about examples of norm-aware or norm-transformative approaches to women’s financial inclusion that you may have come across. Please feel free to connect with me at [email protected] if you have any questions or suggestions.
Additionally, FinEquity will host quarterly conversations, which will provide an opportunity for people interested in gender-transformative solutions to learn more about our collective progress, offer input on upcoming activities, and connect with each other.