In 2017/18 the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) undertook the first comprehensive review of micro-merchants in Bangladesh engaged in the retail sector, particularly in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) operating mostly in rural areas.
The ‘Landscape Assessment of Retail Micro-merchants’ showed that retail micro-merchants require access to financial services, and credit in particular. Nearly all retail micro-merchants have mobile phones and understand the benefits of mobile financial services (MFS), but only 30 per cent use these services, and amongst them, few are female. The need for financial services is high, and mobile penetration is high, yet the use of MFS is low, especially among women micro-merchants. The UNCDF SHIFT SAARC programme in Bangladesh decided to investigate why this is so.
The programme commissioned MicroSave Consulting (MSC) to undertake consumer behaviour research to examine the gender centrality in digital financial services (DFS) in Bangladesh. DFS enables a customer to use a device (e.g. mobile phones, debit or credit cards, Internet, agents) to make or receive payments and transfers and to store value electronically. The study focused only on MFS, a type of DFS, given this form of DFS is most prevalent in Bangladesh.
The findings are based on a qualitative survey with 76 respondents. It builds on a previously-conducted study that provided numerical data allowing for statistical interpretation. By investigating the centrality of gender in DFS through qualitative research, the aim was to make sense of “how and why” women use DFS. This approach helped us to recognise patterns and build a meaningful picture of the drivers of DFS use among women, and make recommendations for policy and practice. Our findings are not generalizable; nonetheless, they paint a picture of the reasons why women use DFS and provide a set of insights to shape thinking about addressing the gender gap. Overall, the report calls for more research about women and DFS.