Mobile Phone Toolkit to Empower Fijian Women to Embrace Financial Inclusion

Fiji Government officials and civil society came together in Suva yesterday to attend a training on a technical literacy toolkit designed for women in low-income communities, addressing the challenges of improving their technical ability and awareness about mobile phones.

Research by GSMA’s mWomen project has revealed that women in low-income communities are 21 per cent less likely to access mobile phones compared to men globally.

Whilst many women were comfortable with making and receiving phone calls, less than 50 per cent of women showed confidence sending and receiving text messages.

However, women in low-income communities expressed a strong desire to learn how to use additional features and value added services, such as paying electricity bills, accessing health advise, using mobile banking and accessing the internet.

These are services with strong socio-economic benefits that are locally available in Fiji.

The research also found that access to these services using a mobile device requires a level of technical literacy that is often limited in low-income communities. Further, gender, age and rural isolation play a role in influencing levels of technical literacy, and women in particular are prone to have low levels of technical ability.

Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP), Manager, Reuben Summerlin said the tool kit comes with an objective of empowerment for women. “As the Australian Secretary for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese, said last week in Suva, ’Empowering women to participate in the economy is smart economics.’ This is why PFIP wants to reach out to 500,000 women across the Pacific by 2019 providing them access to appropriate and affordable financial services.”

The toolkit will include resources, activities, games and guidelines for engaging and educating women. The toolkit aims to be contextually relevant and is grounded in a participatory design process involving direct input from women from Fijians of I-Taukei ethnicity and Fijians of Indian ethnicity from both rural and urban settings. Discussions with stakeholders and subject experts in Fiji have helped develop resources that are usable and appropriate.

The tool kit was developed by GSMA mWomen in partnership with PFIP.

PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme helping low income households to quality and affordable financial services and financial education. It is funded by the Australian Government, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the European Union, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and operates from the UNDP Pacific Centre.

PFIP aims to add one million Pacific Islanders to the formal financial sector by 2019, through facilitating access to appropriate financial services, creating national-level financial education initiatives and spearheading catalytic policy initiatives.

The GSMA mWomen Programme isa public-private partnership between the worldwide mobile industry and the international development community, which aims to reduce the mobile phone gender gap by 50 per cent and provide life-enhancing services to underserved women in developing countries.