WFP and the DWA jointly disseminate study on digital financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh

On October 30, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Department of Women Affairs (DWA) jointly hosted a dissemination workshop on learnings from a digital financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment study produced by WFP and the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA).

In her keynote address, the Secretary of the Ministry of MoWCA, Ms. Nazma Mobarek, emphasized the commitment of the government to accelerating women’s economic empowerment and highlighted its alignment with the vision of Digital Bangladesh 2021, the 8th Five-Year Plan, and the National Social Security Strategy, among others. Drawing attention to the strides made towards the SMART Bangladesh 2041 vision, Ms. Mobarek underscored the importance of an inclusive digital ecosystem for all, particularly vulnerable women.

Over the years, the government has invested heavily in social safety net programs to ensure that everyone, especially women, the elderly, and people with disabilities, may benefit from the nation’s economic prosperity. Bangladesh started moving away from the cash-in-hand method of distributing social safety net payments in 2017 and toward a digital solution by collaborating with financial service providers.

To better understand the obstacles to and facilitators of women’s digital financial inclusion, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WFP, and MoWCA commissioned the study Enabling Digital Financial Inclusion and Women’s Economic Empowerment via Social Assistance in Bangladesh in 2022.

The study has revealed that while the current digital financial inclusion policies and initiatives have had many benefits, many beneficiaries still face barriers to mobile financial services due to low levels of digital financial literacy and restrictive social norms. Adding to these barriers is the lack of a direct support system for operating digital financial solutions and specialized products.

To tackle these issues, a 3-step recommendation model is suggested:

1. Awareness and sensitization of beneficiaries and their family members to promote women’s participation in economic activities.

2. Building digital capacity through an integrated support system to help equip vulnerable women with the necessary knowledge and technical assistance to access and utilize digital financial services.

3. Design innovative digital financial products with the needs of vulnerable women in mind to facilitate access, adoption, and usage among vulnerable groups.

WFP and DWA are urging strong cooperation between development partners and private sector partners, including banks and mobile financial service providers, in order to raise financial and technical literacy levels, develop an incentive program, and come up with creative ways to make the digital financial ecosystem more relevant and reachable for women who are vulnerable.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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