No one is Invisible: More efforts needed on financial inclusion of disadvantaged girls and women in Uganda.
How big is the challenge of financial inclusion for women in Uganda? The global scale of women’s financial exclusion makes it clear that in order to achieve universal financial access, we need to focus on women.
According to Global Financial Development Report: Financial Inclusion(World Bank 2014) – Empirical evidence shows that financial inclusion can aid self-employment, improve household consumption, support greater local economic activity, and reduce inequality. There is also macroeconomic evidence to show that economies with deeper financial intermediation tend to grow faster and reduce income inequality. For these reasons, over 30 countries around the world have made commitments to improve financial inclusion and/or implement national financial inclusion strategies as part of their broader national development plans. Uganda was one of them.
Financial inclusion is where individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs that are delivered in a responsible and sustainable way. This is basically the availability and equality of opportunities to access financial services.The National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) clearly shows financial inclusion is improving in Uganda: 54% of adults were financially included in formal institutions in 2013 compared to 28% in 2009. In addition, the Bank of Uganda (BoU) has provided significant leadership to improve the level of financial consumer protection and financial literacy within the country through its own internal financial inclusion working group, albeit with a focus on institutions which BoU supervises. However, the limited outreach among banks worsen lack of financial access in many areas and information regarding consumers’ levels of financial capability, especially among disadvantaged girls and women in the country– this is why “equality” still needs to be underlined in the definition of financial inclusion.
The Finscope 2018 study conducted in Uganda reveals a gap when it comes to overall financial inclusion – only 77% adult women are financially included. There are several reasons why disadvantaged girls and women face this situation in Uganda, which manifests itself in 25% of women being less likely to own a mobile phone, being active users of mobile money, having an account at a financial institution, saving or borrowing money and understanding financial services. The levels of exclusion from any form of financial service is high, especially among households with low levels of education. This makes it difficult for women to own property and have independence in their decision-making, according to NFIS. The “Feminization” of poverty in Uganda does not stand out, women are 1.8 times more likely to access informal financial services via their village savings groups and co-operatives than formal services. In fact, 23% of adult women use informal services compared to 59% of adult men (Finscope 2018).Comprising over 51% of Uganda’s population, women continue to be underrepresented as beneficiaries of government initiatives, voters, and political leaders and elected officials. This amplifies their voices in addressing their concerns as well as giving them a sense of independence, which usually breaks the barriers towards financial inclusion.
There’s need to ask the big question – What are factors holding back financial inclusion of disadvantaged girls and women in Uganda? A number of factors can be spelt out, for instance, excluded women are harder to
identify, women are informationally disadvantaged with smaller and less diverse networks, women are more difficult to reach through the usual channels that target men, such as wage payments and remittance channels or savings accounts, since most women operate in the informal sector.
However, the end goal of financial inclusion is not just to have more people possessing bank accounts, who make bank transfers and receive loans. Much rather, the goal is to reduce poverty and enhance the economic security of families through usage of affordable financial services. It has often been said and proven that poverty in Uganda has a female face – thus there is need to identify the opportunities for fostering financial inclusion and the policy alternatives for financial inclusion of disadvantaged girls and women in Uganda. No one should be left invisible!
Written by Harriet Kamashanyu
Youth4Policy Fellow 2019