Towards Gender-Smart Microfinance Product Development and Enterprise Lending in Myanmar

  • May 24, 2022

  • Publications, guides and communication materials


In Myanmar, women entrepreneurs mainly operating in the informal sector face gender-specific barriers that impede their financial inclusion and enterprise development. These barriers include low financial and digital literacy levels, a lack of awareness of financial services, limited financial autonomy, harsh business loan application requirements, a lack of collateral and socio-cultural norms that give rise to time and mobility constraints.

The new paper Towards Gender-Smart Microfinance Product Development and Enterprise Lending: Case Studies from Myanmar describes an action research conducted by UNCDF with three large microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Myanmar on gender smart enterprise financing. The support entailed using product development ideation through human-centric design and data analytics to address specific gender barriers faced by women micro-enterprises.

Using almost one million customer data records, 2,777 lean data surveys, and UNCDF Finscope market data, the three MFIs received technical support to use women customer data insights to better tailor loans to the needs of specific women enterprise segments including merchants, farmers, and home-based workers.

The paper identifies potential business cases for each MFI to address barriers for women entrepreneurs. Proposed product ideations and refinements included launching awareness raising campaigns for loan products, reducing business registration requirements to target informal microenterprises, better predicting loan graduation, and launching refinancing mechanisms for enterprise loans during COVID-19 in order to better serve women clients. In the context of turbulent market dynamics as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and political regime change, few of these product ideations have been taken forward, while others may take longer to implement.

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