Draft SBP policy seeks prioritising gender focus in banking sector

Published December 22, 2020
The State bank of Pakistan released its draft ‘Banking on Equality Policy: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion’, on Monday. — APP/File
The State bank of Pakistan released its draft ‘Banking on Equality Policy: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion’, on Monday. — APP/File

KARACHI: The gender gap in financial inclusion was rising, with only 11.7 million, or 18 per cent of the adult women, having active bank accounts compared to 51pc for men, State Bank of Pakistan Deputy Governor Sima Kamil said on Monday.

She was speaking at the consultative launch of “Banking on Equality: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion,” a flagship policy initiative for promoting women financial inclusion.

The webinar, hosted by SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir, featured an exclusive panel discussion around women’s financial inclusion with international thought leaders in the area of gender and finance including Director Aga Khan Development Network Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Director of Strategy, Policy and Review Department International Monetary Fund Ceyla Pazarbasioglu. President of Gender Equality at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Dr Anita Zaidi moderated the discussion.

The State Bank of Pakistan has launched a national dialogue on its forthcoming policy to reduce the gender gap in financial inclusion in a bid to address one of the key challenges hindering economic growth of the country.

The webinar was attended by diverse local and international stakeholders representing public offices, international, banks and associations. In addition, nearly 1,000 people also watched the webinar live through social media platforms.

In his opening remark, the SBP governor said improved gender parity in financial and economic opportunities can enhance overall socio-economic development outcomes of a nation, for not just the present but future generations. He noted that the event had three key goals.

Princess Zahra shared her views on how to make headways in the gender diversity landscape and what steps were required to make a difference. Meanwhile, Pazarbasioglu noted that gender diversity in financial service providers can improve overall women’s financial inclusion in a country. She also shed light on key demand and supply side barriers that globally exist for women’s low financial inclusion.

‘Pressing need to review policies’

Acknowledging that gender neutral policies were insufficient in reducing the gender gap in the financial sector, the SBP said that there was there was a pressing need to view these rules through a ‘gender lens’.

In its draft ‘Banking on Equality Policy: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion’, released on Monday, the SBP said, “Inclusion demands that men and women get equal opportunities to access and use formal financial services. However, currently, women are disproportionately under-served by the country’s financial system. This disparity impedes Pakistan’s national economic development. The goal of the proposed policy in this document is to engender equality in banking and reduce the gender gap in financial inclusion.”

The draft policy which was prepared by the SBP in consultation with relevant stakeholders identifies five key areas under which actions are targeted towards improving gender diversity, product diversification and development capability, customer acquisition and facilitation approaches towards women segments, collection of gender disaggregated data, and prioritising gender focus in SBP’s policies.

The policy recommendations will be applicable on SBP’s regulated entities including Commercial Banks, Islamic Banks, Microfinance Banks (MFBs), Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) etc. Furthermore, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) is expected to adopt a similar, yet customised, gender policy for the non-banking financial sector.

Based on the broader feedback, the policy — available on the SBP website — is expected to be launched in early February 2021.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2020

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