Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Tag: Women's Economic Empowerment

 

smiling woman at sewing machine

Helping Poor Women Grow Their Businesses with Mobile Savings, Training, and Something More?

Growing a business is not easy, and for women firm owners the challenges can be acute, especially when they are poor and run subsistence level firms. In developing countries, 22 percent of women discontinue their established businesses due to a lack of funds, and women are more likely than men to report exiting their businesses over finance problems, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Meanwhile, personal savings are a crucial source of entrepreneurial financing, and nearly 95 percent of entrepreneurs globally state that they used their own funds to start or scale up their businesses. Women, however, face unique constraints in accumulating savings to invest in growing their firms.

Mayra Buvinic, Joao Montalvao and Amy Copley
A seamstress in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images/imagesofempowerment.com

Empowering Women, Changing Mindsets: A Conversation on Technology and Financial Training

Eight years and millions of mobile financial transactions later, we came together again at a private CGD roundtable in London to discuss the potential of mobile banking and savings for women’s economic empowerment. We were pleased to hear the richness of research evidence and interventions on women’s financial inclusion that have emerged over the past decade. What follows are some takeaways from our deliberations, informed by this research and practice.

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Women own more than half of all micro, small, and medium enterprises in Indonesia. But of the estimated 22–33 million businesswomen in the country, most operate informal unregistered microenterprises, with significantly fewer assets and profits than men’s.

M-Pawa increased women’s happiness and optimism, business training had no additional significant effect (% of study participants answering ‘yes’)

The Clock is Ticking on Financial Inclusion and a Focus on Women Can Help

A sense of urgency was present at a recent World Bank Spring meeting on financial inclusion. This is not surprising, given the Bank’s ambitious goal of Universal Financial Access by 2020. Two years to go and globally about 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked—close to 1 billion of them are women. It’s clear that to meet this goal, we all must focus our efforts on women.

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A study of women and men business owners in East Java offers a unique opportunity to analyze characteristics of entrepreneurs and their businesses by gender for a country where such systematic data are scarce. The study is one of two randomized controlled trials launched in 2015 to assess the power of mobile savings and training for women entrepreneurs. This report details baseline results from the Indonesia trial, still under way, which is testing whether providing financial literacy training for women who are potential bank clients and varying financial incentives to bank agents promoting a new mobile savings product make a difference in increasing  entrepreneurs’ uptake of formal savings and in improving economic outcomes. Short-term results of the other trial, in Tanzania, were reported in the first report in this series.

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Women own a large and growing proportion of businesses in Indonesia, estimated at over half of all micro, small, and medium enterprises. However, women’s economic outcomes are not equal to those of men. 

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Mobile savings hold great promise for empowering women entrepreneurs. Women are often disproportionately burdened by high transaction costs to access savings accounts.

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Mobile savings hold great promise, because they can considerably reduce transaction costs that can be unduly heavy for women. Two questions guide us: how can we encourage more women microentrepreneurs to access formal savings accounts, and is mobile saving a particularly fitting solution? This series uses empirical evidence to address these issues.

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In 1995, India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) organized women waste pickers in Ahmedabad into a cooperative to improve their working conditions and livelihoods. Over time, this informal arrangement evolved into Gitanjali—a women-owned and -run social enterprise. With support from key partners, Gitanjali has generated social value, providing its members with safe and dignified work while increasing their earnings. While Gitanjali faces challenges in becoming a fully self-sufficient social enterprise, its experience offers insights for other initiatives seeking to provide opportunities for women to transition from informal to formal work.

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In 1995 India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) organized women waste pickers in Ahmedabad into a cooperative to improve their working conditions and livelihoods. Over time, this informal arrangement evolved into Gitanjali—a women-owned and -run social enterprise. With support from key partners, Gitanjali has generated social value, providing its members with safe and dignified work while increasing their earnings. While Gitanjali faces challenges in becoming a fully self-sufficient social enterprise, its experience offers insights for other initiatives seeking to provide opportunities for women to transition from informal to formal work.

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