“As a result, as of December 2020, 62% of adults have a bank account showing a significant growth from 45% in 2017,” he said. “Under the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, a target was set to ensure that at least 20 million women must have a active bank account by 2023.”
“However, despite overall growth in financial inclusion, the gender gap has continued to persist,” said Baqir. As of December 2020, only 14.5 million active accounts are owned by women, compared to 38.7 million active accounts owned by men.
The SBP recently introduced a framework for banks so customers can open accounts digitally without needing to visit branches. It also has simpler paperwork. Baqir said this framework helps self-employed or unemployed women, freelancers, and women who receive remittances digitally.
SBP Deputy Governor Sima Kamil said that women, especially in Pakistan, face distinct obstacles in accessing formal financial services. The BoE policy is the first gender mainstreaming policy for the financial sector, which will introduce a gender lens in our policies and practices.
The BoE policy identifies five key pillars:
1. Improving gender diversity in financial institutions and their access points;
2. Development and marketing of women centric products and services;
3. Creating women desks at bank branches;
4. Robust collection of gender-disaggregated data and target setting;
5. Institutionalizing a Policy Forum on Gender at SBP
Financial institutions are required to increase women staff to at least 20% by December 2024. To improve women-to-women dealings in retail, branchless banking providers shall be instructed to increase women BB agents to 10% in their agent portfolios.
Similarly, dedicated and trained women champions will be placed at 75% of all banks to help guide female customers by June 2024. Moreover, all banks will give gender sensitivity trainings to their staff, both male and female, to eliminate implicit gender biases and improve their understanding of the requirements of women customers.
For his part, President Arif Alvi said that the government recognizes women’s financial inclusion as a key driver for achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
The President added that it is the government’s policy to promote women’s inclusion by providing equitable opportunities for access to financial services to all segments of the population.
He applauded the SBP’s efforts and expressed his expectation that a Banking on Equality policy would help mainstream women’s financial inclusion as part of financial institutions strategic priorities through binding targets.
He said that government’s flagship Ehsaas program incorporates Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision of “One woman, One bank account policy”.