Microfinance and Innovative Financing for Gender Equality: Approaches, Challenges, and Strategies

Paper presented at Eighth Commonwealth Women's Affairs Ministers Meeting

This paper calls on microfinance to address gender challenges as it moves forward in empowering the poor. It discusses growth trends, scaling-up and performance of microfinance, gender challenges for microfinance and private sector financing as an alternative route to serving low income women. A significant proportion of the billion poor people worldwide who still lack access to financial services are women. Very little is known about what microfinance has achieved in terms of closing the gender gap on aspects such as womens ownership of and control over assets and women holding custody of income. The microfinance industry has to move beyond providing standard credit for small-scale enterprise and other basic financial services to providing services that can really empower women and enable them to reduce their risk and vulnerability. The paper makes five generic recommendations, keeping in view various challenges. They are:

  • Establishing a global or Commonwealth Gender Innovation Challenge Fund;
  • Creating an enabling environment for supporting financing for gender equality;
  • Supporting demonstration pilots on financing for gender equality;
  • Facilitating the global microfinance industry to adopt gender sensitive practices;
  • Undertaking research to support financing for gender equality.

About this Publication

By Arunachalam, R.