ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday said the inclusion of women in the financial mainstream as well as their digital empowerment would bring about economic stability besides many other intangible benefits to the society.

Addressing the launching ceremony of State Bank’s policy aimed at ensuring women’s financial inclusion, President Alvi said a financially independent woman could not be exploited.

First Lady Samina Alvi, parliamentarians, State Bank Governor Dr Reza Baqir, SBP Deputy Governor Seema Kamil, chief executive officers (CEOs) of banks and financial institutions attended the event.

Women’s financial inclusion would also significantly improve the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) as women were more reliable handlers of financial products as evidenced in both Bangladesh and Pakistan, the president said, adding that with the need for physical labour minimised, women could easily use digital tools to earn a living.

Five main pillars of the policy are diversity, inclusion, accessibility, transparency and leadership whereas a target has been set to open around 20 million bank accounts for women by 2023. Currently, only 13pc of the bank staff and 1pc of branchless banking agents are women.

Under the policy, financial institutions would be asked to ensure that there is at least 20pc of female participation in the workforce by 2024.

Opening a bank account was just one method of financial inclusion as it would open up avenues for more women, Dr Alvi said, adding that it was also equally essential to teach society about ethics and its responsibilities for instance at Minar-i-Pakistan, people decided to film an incident of harassment instead of intervening and stopping the wrongful act.

He suggested that more women would open bank accounts if disbursement of cash through Ehsaas, to 17 million women, was done through banks.

The president appreciated a decision of the Balochistan High Court, barring women from gifting their inherited property to anyone unless it was transferred to her.

He urged female parliamentarians to use their voices to educate the female population of the country about the loan amount specified by banks (for women), which currently remained to be under-utilised.

In the end, the president also reiterated his message for self-examination and early diagnosis of breast cancer as October would be observed as a month for awareness of the disease. He said owing to delayed diagnosis, the mortality rate in Pakistan was 50pc.

Mr Baqir presented a copy of the policy to the president.

In his address, the SBP governor said the policy had been finalised after detailed consultation with all stakeholders.

He said Pakistan lagged far behind other Muslim countries in the matter relating to number of female bank account holders which was 70pc in Saudi Arabia, 76pc in United Arab Emirates (UAE), 54pc in Turkey and 82pc in Malaysia.

He said the extension of digital account opening facility across Pakistan would also help enhance the number of account holders including men and women.

Mr Baqir thanked banks and other financial institutions for supporting central banks in policy formulation and urged them to own and implement the document.

Earlier, Seema Kamil said it was a historic day for women of Pakistan as financial inclusion was their right. She said being gender-neutral had not been enough, so it was required to adopt a gender-intentional approach.

She asked banks to provide a conducive environment, welcome, value and respect their female customers to encourage their inclusion.

CEO of Forward Sports Khawaja Masood, whose company was effectively promoting the objective, said financial inclusion of women would have a substantial impact on the national economy. He said financial institutions should ensure that their respect and grace was not compromised.

CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Rehan Sheikh said in its report, the World Economic Forum had placed Pakistan in the bottom three countries in relation to number of female bank accounts. He said his bank was one of the biggest supporters of gender balance and endeavouring to be the best place to work and best bank for women.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021



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