Women’s access to rural finance: challenges and opportunities
This paper (PDF) by FAO aims to give an overview of the variety of challenges and opportunities linked to the promotion of women’s access to finance in rural contexts, while also presenting a number of good practices which can be adopted to foster inclusion. Improving rural women’s access to financial services is a proven strategy for contributing to rural women’s social and economic empowerment, as well as improving overall the livelihoods of rural households and communities. However, the availability of financial services is limited in rural areas, and the existing financial services intended for rural communities rarely benefit rural women. Rural women face several constraints that limit their access to financial services, such as sociocultural, economic/legal and in some cases educational barriers. On the other hand, financial institutions also face constraints extending services to rural women. Various good practices can be adopted in order to overcome both the demand- and supply-side challenges in order to improve the provision of financial services for rural communities and underserved groups, such as rural women. Some of these practices include the design of inclusive packages of financial products and services intended for women, as well as the promotion of alternative collateral and the use of ICT. The promotion of access to information and the improvement of financial literacy for women are also key practices. Aside from these strategies, there must be changes in the policy environment and at the institutional level to ensure the sustainability of these initiatives. These changes consist of building capacity and raising awareness for the sustainable adoption of gender-sensitive practices as well as the collection of sex-disaggregated data. All in all, these efforts should aim to ensure that by increasing rural women’s access to finance, their empowerment and wellbeing are likewise strengthened.