Digital Finance Knowledge Management and Communications Lead
UN Capital Development Fund
In Myanmar, women and men face barriers in accessing and using financial services due to a broad range of interconnected constraints. Although some of these barriers are shared, women can experience greater vulnerability to these shared constraints based on their gender. Other distinct constraints, which place disproportionate restrictions on women’s financial inclusion, are also prevalent.
UNCDF’s programme, The Women’s Economic and Financial Inclusion Project (WEFIP), funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), aims to increase women and girls’ awareness of, access to, and use of agency over appropriate financial products and services responsibly provided by diverse and sustainable service providers in a well-regulated environment. The project will act to strengthen the enabling environment and the socio-cultural context to improve financial access, usage and agency for women and girls. This will contribute to more inclusive financial markets that drive women’s and girls’ economic empowerment and participation in the whole of Myanmar with a focus on conflict-affected areas.
The intent is that of the 200,000 women and girl beneficiaries, the majority are women and girls from conflict-affected and/or post-conflicts areas of the country, namely the ethnic minority areas and conflict affected among regions of Kachin, Northern Shan, Kayah, and Rakhine state.
During the Women’s Economic and Financial Inclusion Project (WEFIP) inception phase, desk research and field trips were conducted in Kachin, Northern Shan, Rakhine, and Kayah State. Focus group discussions (FGDs) with conflict-affected women as well as meetings with local NGOs and INGOs were conducted. A total of 14 FGDs were conducted with 146 participants across the four states. 88.5% of the participants were women, who represented a range of different ethnic groups. The WEFIP team also met with 24 local NGOs, 12 INGOs, 18 financial service providers and government entities across states and at the national level to further understand the local context and enabling environment.
This case study explores the conditions experienced by women and girls in Kachin, Northern Shan, Rakhine and Kayah states in terms of their demand for and access to financial services and products. It also provides findings in terms of the degree to which women and girls’ financial inclusion is influenced by:
- Demand-side constraints: These are individual and household level constraints that women and girls face, which inhibit their demand for and ability to use financial services and products. They are shaped by intrahousehold decision-making, behavior, division of labour and life cycle needs.
- Supply-side constraints: Market level access to gender sensitive financial services, products and delivery channels, and related non-financial services by other market actors.
- Enabling environment constraints: Laws, regulations, and policies as well as infrastructure and services provided by the state to address barriers and facilitate reforms in which household members and market players operate.
- Socio-cultural contexts: Within socio- cultural contexts, specific informal rules and gender norms govern behaviors, expectations and social interactions. They are enforced by social sanctions and perpetuate and exacerbate all other categories of constraints.
Women’s economic and financial inclusion is an important and necessary step towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. When a woman has equal access to economic opportunities, she is more likely to have the resources and agency to make life decisions that improve her quality of life and realize her rights.