Social Norms & Women’s Access to Financial Services

Credit: Yavuz Sariyildiz, 2012 CGAP Photo Contest

By Yasmin Bin-Humam
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 31 2019 – How do financial services providers (FSPs) shape gender norms that restrict or expand women’s access to financial services? In more ways than you might think, and there are good reasons why FSPs should be aware of this.

From a business standpoint, social norms shape the demand dynamics of a customer base and determine the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and channels. When norms discourage women from using financial services, they close off a huge potential market for FSPs.

The 2017 Findex shows that in Turkey, where CGAP is researching gender norms that affect women’s financial lives, only 53 percent of women over age 15 have an account at a financial institution compared with 82 percent of men.

That’s roughly 14.6 million women who don’t have accounts, and each one is a potential customer.

Our qualitative interviews of over 90 men and women and a host of providers and NGOs have revealed a number of social norms that likely contribute to this gap, along with some interesting examples of FSPs whose work could help open new female client segments.

One belief that both men and women espoused in many of our interviews is the idea that women are not as financially savvy as men and should consult with their husbands and fathers rather than make financial decisions on their own.

It’s not hard to see how this belief discourages women from having their own financial accounts. When women have safe ways to incrementally demonstrate their financial savvy, it can help shift people away from the belief that there is an innate gender difference.

Ininal is a self-described “bank for the unbanked” in Turkey that is doing interesting work in this regard. Through 20,000 distribution points, including postal outlets and grocery chains, it provides a preloaded payment card that allows customers to store value and shop online, where there are discounts that had been off limits to the unbanked.

The platform has 1.0 million active users who transact at least once per month, 98 percent of whom use an associated mobile wallet to check their balances, transfer money between cards and pay bills.

When we spoke with Ininal CEO Omer Suner, he told us that men compose 73 percent of Ininal’s user base but that the company is working to expand women’s access to its services.

According to Suner, part of the reason why young women have so few accounts is that they are more comfortable relying on their fathers’ accounts. However, transaction data show that women are increasingly obtaining their own cards and topping them off with money from their fathers’ accounts, rather than directly using their fathers’ cards.

Suner wants to encourage more women to obtain their own prepaid cards as a way of managing their finances independently. He hopes that upcoming marketing campaigns targeting women’s financial independence and accountability will deepen women’s engagement with Ininal’s platform and shift perceptions, while broadening the company’s reach.

Another social norm CGAP encountered in our interviews is the belief that women should not run large businesses because doing so interferes with their primary responsibility of managing the household.

A common phenomenon in social norms is that people conform to how they perceive (or misperceive) society at large to behave. For example, if there is a perception that nobody is recycling, people are less likely to recycle.

But if people start seeing others recycle, they are more likely to follow suit. The same principle applies with women’s financial inclusion. If FSPs give visibility to women who are breaking the mold and redefining their roles, they can crowd in more women entrepreneurs and generate new customers in the process.

Some providers are running campaigns that could have this effect. TEB Bank’s Women’s Banking Program recently ran a social media campaign around the popular catch phrase, “What will people say,” to inspire more women to pursue their dreams. It featured ambitious business women who sought to grow their businesses and highlighted how they stood fast despite the doubt others had in them.

KAGIDER, the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, provides another example. When it paired women entrepreneurs with female mentors, the entrepreneurs’ business grew 68 percent and hired more employees, in large part because mentees were inspired by their mentors’ success.

In addition to perception correction, some private-sector players provide products and services that allow workarounds to norms-based barriers. Opening a brick-and-mortar business requires a lot of capital, and women often struggle to come up with the capital because they don’t own property that they can leverage as collateral.

Running a store also requires particular opening hours and engagement with men outside of the family, which pose additional challenges for women. However, starting an online company requires lower startup costs and opens far-flung markets that were previously inaccessible at flexible hours. It also enables women to work from home and engage less directly with male clients.

Iyzico, a company that provides digital payments solutions to corporate and personal sellers, has seen an increasing proportion of female entrepreneurs using its technology.

The number of female merchants using Iyzico has increased more than 10-fold since 2016 and now constitutes 20 percent of the company’s business. The tools provided by Iyzico also positively impact women-owned businesses.

The average revenue generated by businesses owned by women is roughly double that of businesses owned by men. A quick glance at the Turkish fintech ecosystem map reveals that other firms are providing all manner of services that facilitate access to capital and markets and allow new business models to emerge.

Many providers do not actively take into account the constraints and barriers that women face when designing their financial services because they do not see the business case for serving women.

But as these examples show, some providers are helping to increase women’s demand for financial services and are enabling women to seize new opportunities. The more providers that take such approaches, the more we will see the needle move on women’s financial inclusion.

Tanzania Detains Freelancer Kabendera over ‘Citizenship’

Tanzania police say that investigative journalist Erick Kabendera is being investigated over his citizenship status. Courtesy: Amnesty International

By Committee to Protect Journalists
NAIROBI, Jul 31 2019 – The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Tanzanian authorities to immediately release freelance journalist Erick Kabendera, whom police said is being investigated over his citizenship status.

Dar es Salaam police chief Lazaro Mambosasa said at a press conference today that Kabendera was in custody and that police arrested him after the journalist failed to obey a summons. Mambosasa said that Kabendera was being questioned about his citizenship and that police were working with immigration officials. Police yesterday denied knowledge of Kabendera’s case after the journalist was taken from his home by a group of men who refused to identify themselves, according to reports and CPJ research.

One of the journalist’s relatives, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said that the citizenship investigation was surprising because authorities had investigated his status before and “cleared him.” In 2013 authorities terminated a similar investigation into the journalist and his parents, calling it “ill-advised” and stating that the family’s citizenship was not questionable, according to a report by the privately-owned publication, The Citizen. In a blog post, Kabendera linked the 2013 investigation to attempts to muzzle him. The Citizen reported last year on several cases of authorities investigating the citizenship of government critics.

The relative said that no summons was issued and told CPJ they believe the arrest is in retaliation for Kabendera’s journalism, which has been unflinching in its assessment of President John Magufuli’s government.

“This rehashing of discredited claims about Erick Kabendera’s citizenship appear to be nothing more than a ploy by the Tanzanian authorities to justify their actions after public outcry over the manner in which the journalist was detained,” said CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo. “Kabendera should be released immediately and this sham of an investigation terminated. Tanzanian authorities must stop harassing their critics.”

At the press conference this afternoon, Mambosasa said that Kabendera was being held at Central police station in Dar es Salaam. When family, colleagues, and lawyers tried to visit the journalist this evening, they were told he was not at the station and that they could not see him until tomorrow, Jones Sendodo, a lawyer affiliated with the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition and who went to the station, told CPJ. The coalition today filed a bail application that will be heard on August 1, according to Watetezi TV, which is associated with the coalition.

Tanzanian Inspector General of Police Simon Sirro and Mambosasa were unreachable on their phones today. CPJ’s messages asking for comment, sent this evening, went unanswered.

Kabendera has reported for several regional and international publications, including the British newspaper The Guardian and the website African Arguments. His most recent reporting in the regional weekly The East African covered alleged divisions in Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, amid alleged plots within the party to block Magufuli from running for a second term.

Press freedom has drastically deteriorated in Magufuli’s Tanzania. CPJ has documented the use of suspensions, restrictive legislation, and intimidation to muzzle journalists. The freelance journalist Azory Gwanda went missing in 2017 and the government has yet to provide a credible accounting of his whereabouts. When asked about Gwanda today, Mambosasa told journalists that he could not provide details because it was necessary to keep investigations “secret” to protect evidence before it was brought to a court.

Free Speech and the Hong Kong Protests

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Jul 30 2019 - Sometime in the summer of 1974, I was leaning against the gunwale of the ferry between Calais and Dover, watching the moonlight streaming dark waters. When I turned to the left I found that [...] Read more »