Message from Judith Karl, UNCDF Executive Secretary, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2016

  • March 08, 2016

  • New York, USA

This International Women’s Day is the first since the adoption of the SDGs. SDG 5 concerns the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

In a reflection of how gender equality is so important for realizing a range of development goals, other SDGs also include specific targets concerned with empowering women.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up for Gender Equality”. It reminds us that we all have a part to play in stepping it up for gender equality, and that bringing about real change requires not just doing more of the same, but learning from the past interventions that work, and using that knowledge to empower women and girls everywhere.

At UNCDF, we know that financial inclusion for women consistently shows positive economic outcomes for women through access to savings, by increasing the productivity of rural women; expanding their profits; and improving consumption smoothing in the face of economic shocks. In addition, digital financial services increase women’s financial autonomy, support women’s participation in the labour force, and improve the performance of their businesses.

Yet, data on access and use of financial services show that women are still less financially included than men, even in countries with relatively high levels of overall financial inclusion. Although between 2011 and 2014 the number of adults without a formal bank account – the so called unbanked – dropped by 20 percent to 2 billion, the gender gap in account ownership is not narrowing. In 2014, 58 percent of women worldwide have had a bank account, compared to 65 percent of men in the same period. The gap is particularly large in South Asia, where only 37 percent of women have bank accounts.

That is why we support, through technical assistance and seed capital, financial services providers to expand their reach and accelerate women’s access to regulated financial services.

Through our work we also know that investment in local infrastructure can unblock women’s access to, and participation in, the local economy. We continuously test ways of unlocking private finance for those infrastructure projects which can have a transformative impact on the lives and livelihoods of women. This includes focusing on infrastructure projects at the local level — such as feeder roads, bridges, and micro hydro — that can empower women, and supporting local authorities to analyze, design, plan, and budget inclusive and equitable gender responsive interventions.

On this International Women's Day, we pledge to step up the deployment of our capital investment mandate and finance models to ensure equal opportunities and progress for all women and girls.