How we are helping?

UNCDF is working in Myanmar with the goal to improve women (aged 25+) and girls’ (aged between 10-24) awareness of, access to, use of and control over appropriate financial products and services responsibly provided by diverse and sustainable service providers in a well-regulated environment. Further, to strengthen the enabling environment and the socio-cultural context for greater access and agency for women and girls. This is intended to contribute to more inclusive financial markets that drive women’s and girls' economic empowerment and participation in the country.

To deliver on this vision, UNCDF will be working directly and through partners to address financial inclusion supply-side, demand-side and enabling environment constraints and enablers, and cross cutting socio-cultural context, adapted to women’s life cycle needs and economic roles.

UNCDF is operationalising its global strategy on women’s economic participation and empowerment at country level in Myanmar through implementing strategic interventions to deliver on three country-level objectives:

  • Promoting gender sensitive financial products and services and supporting non-financial services;
  • Advancing a gender-sensitive enabling legal, policy and regulatory environment for financial inclusion;
  • Enhancing women and girls’ capabilities, voice and demand for finance and control over the benefits from use of financial services.

The Scale of the Challenge

Women and girls in Myanmar 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, access points across delivery channels are extremely limited in Myanmar and agent banking and mobile money agents are nascent. Further, a lack of formal and liquid saving mechanisms, coupled with a lack of access to formal loans, force women to turn to informal lenders to meet household expenses and emergencies.

In terms of the enabling environment, regulatory requirements to secure loans at retail banks are the key constraint for women business owners looking for larger ticket loans, as banks require >200% collateral in land & building which women are less likely to own. This is in a context where women face lower levels of land and property ownership driven by inheritance norms as well as discrimination in the registration process. For instance, until recently, the farmland registration process included space for only one name – generally the head of the household.

Banks require >200% collateral

for larger ticket loans

Constraints 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 4% points, with 29% of females accessing finance through either formal banks or non-banks compared to 33% of males, and more likely to use informal products compared with men by 5% points.

Constraints faced by women & girls


Physical financial service access points and agent networks are limited and do not cater to women’s time and mobility constraints: compared to Bangladesh, Myanmar has fewer than half the bank branches and 10 times fewer MFI branches.


There is no collateral registry nor credit bureau (although the latter was to be launched by end-2017). Credit card/payment companies only received permission to operate domestically in early 2017.


Financial literacy of women is low and constrains their ability to submit financial statements for MFI loans. Digital literacy is also a challenge for women, particularly in regard to downloading and using applications on smart phones.


FSPs’ lack of awareness of the women’s market contributes to biased attitudes of front-line staff. As a result, many women perceive that banks are not for them and feel intimidated to visit banks.


The National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women identifies 12 priority areas, including the economy, decision-making, institutional mechanisms, and education, but financial inclusion receives limited attention.


Women’s mobility is limited, especially in rural areas. Women rarely have opportunities to express and collectively discuss and their financial hardships and ways to solve them.


Many FSPs do not have the capacity or resources to effectively collect and analyse sex-disaggregated data, especially as most data is paper rather than digitally-based.


Product and delivery regulations constrains private sector innovation and investment, which disproportionately affects women who would most benefit from such innovation.


Land entitlement certificates until recently only had space for one name, giving men, as household heads, an advantage in land ownership. These changes will take time to have an impact, and are unlikely to affect those who already have a certificate.

by the numbers


Beth Porter
Policy Advisor, Financial Inclusion

Katherine Miles
Consultant, Financial Inclusion

Giulia Zaratti
Financial Inclusion and Gender Specialist