UNCDF is working in Senegal 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 Senegal 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 Senegal 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, the low number of financial access points disproportionately impacts women.

This is in a context where women and girls’ mobility is constrained due to socio-cultural norms whereby they undertake the majority of unpaid care responsibilities in the household, and may face restrictions in leaving the house without a male relatives’ permission. For instance, 40.6% of women aged 15 to 49 find it normal to be beaten by their husband if they leave the house without asking for permission. While mobile money could overcome these mobility and access point constraints, barriers remain related to access to a mobile and knowledge of mobile money accounts. Further, low literacy rates among women, (43.8%) hamper their digital literacy skills.

In terms of the enabling environment, social norms related to inheritance and land and property ownership result in the majority of women in Senegal at 85% (aged 15-49) not owning a house or land that could be used as collateral to access credit. For example, in the agricultural sector, women account for 70% of the labour force, but they hold only 3% of cultivated land. Consequently, women resort to informal mechanisms for credit access and savings, which lack any form of consumer protection.

85% of women

do not own a house or land

Barriers such as these, collectively limit women’s access, usage and agency over financial products and services in ways that restrict their economic empowerment. Indeed, Senegalese women have a 45% labour force participation rate. Consequently, there is a gender gap of 11% with women disproportionately excluded from the formal financial system, mainly due to women’s lack of access to a bank or mobile money account.

constraints faced by women & girls


FSPs do not have up-to-date data on the market potential of women and tend to perceive women less favorably as clients. Few also collect sex-disaggregated data, and even when they do, it's not analyzed or used for product design or decision-making.


A national financial inclusion strategy has yet to be finalized after many years, and it is unclear to what extent it will address gender-related financial inclusion constraints.


Business management skills of women tend to be more limited than those of men.


Apart from mobile money services, banking and MFI service points are few and poorly distributed. Only one bank and one MFI have opened networks of banking intermediaries.


Product/distribution regulation limits private sector innovation; for example, only banks are allowed to open banking intermediary networks.


Some women have financial management skills, but their digital literacy skills are weak.


While a credit information office has been functional since 2016, the volume of data and frequency of consultation remain low, leaving FSPs with little data on clients’ financial history.


The absence of ceilings on guarantees has resulted in FSPs setting guarantee requirements many times the value of the loan, which excludes women who are not able to meet those requirements.


Family responsibilities and lack of affordable child care contribute to higher poverty levels for women, and constrain time available to engage in productive and remunerative activities.

by the numbers


Beth Porter
Policy Advisor, Financial Inclusion

Katherine Miles
Consultant, Financial Inclusion

Maria Perdomo
Youth Finance Global Specialist