Rural Women’s Access to Financial Services: Credit, Savings and Insurance
This paper reviews rural women’s access to financial services, a key factor of successful rural development strategies. Designing appropriate financial products for women to be able to save, borrow and insure is essential to strengthen women’s role as producers and widen the economic opportunities available to them. For this purpose, it is essential to understand how context-specific legal rights, social norms, family responsibilities and women’s access to and control over other resources shape their need for capital and their ability to obtain it.
The paper argues that it is important that development strategies that aim to boost rural women’s productive capacity must enhance women’s direct access to financial services, i.e. not mediated through their husbands. A second benefit of improving women’s direct access to and control over resources is that this leads to higher investments in human capital and has a stronger impact on children’s health, nutrition and education, with important long-term implications for families and societies.
The paper details the new products and service delivery models introduced to address some of the constraints faced by women. These include technical innovations that improve access to existing financial services, changes in product design to better tailor products to women’s preferences and constraints, and the development of new products such as microinsurance.