The Scale of the Challenge
Bangladeshi women and girls face barriers in the supply of and in their demand for financial products and services, the wider enabling environment as well as in their socio-cultural context.
On the supply side, women are disadvantaged compared to men in their access to retail banking and mobile financial services. Women’s more limited time and mobility due to socio-cultural norms restricts access to brick-and-mortar bank branches.
Meanwhile, although growth in mobile/networks have expanded accessibility across the country, more than 95% of agents are male which raises security concerns for women due to cultural factors which can restrict women engaging with unrelated males. On the demand side, women’s phone ownership is considerably lower than men’s (48% compared to 79%), in part driven by concerns of gender-based harassment including other factors. Poor digital literacy skills are also a barrier for women’s access to and usage of mobile financial services (66% of women rank “low” in digital literacy, compared to 24% of men).
66% of women
rank “low” in digital literacy
In terms of the enabling environment, a lack of standardization of access requirements set by the central bank for uncollateralized retail bank loans has led to discretionary interpretation on the part of banks, and is restricting access to credit specifically for the economic segment of women-entrepreneurs. Barriers such as these, collectively limit women’s access, usage and agency over financial products and services in ways that constrain their economic empowerment. Consequently, women remain disproportionately excluded from the formal financial system, with a gender gap of 10% in registered financial service use in 2015.