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Learning Agenda: Building Gender Equity through Inclusive Financial Systems


The FSD Network has embarked on a collaborative programme to accelerate the pace of gender equity in finance in Africa, building our capacities to fully integrate gender into our work and demonstrating impact pathways through innovative on-the-groundwork with policymakers, researchers, and service providers. We seek to go beyond surface-level gender engagements by exploring bold approaches to reducing women’s social, structural, and physical barriers to finance and introducing service innovations that truly matter for meeting women’s economic needs, all within the context of a Network-wide strategic approach focused on strengthening linkages between finance and the real economy, with the goal of having a greater impact on the economic well-being of ordinary people.

We are working to mainstream gender into FSD operations and build FSDs’ capacities to deliver systemic gender impact. We also work to build the gender understanding and implementation abilities of key market actors, like service providers and policymakers, for sustainability of the systemic change. Together with partners, we are working to overcome the policy, regulatory, infrastructure, service provision and norms-related barriers that prevent women from fully benefiting from expanding financial access in their countries.

We have carried out gendered market analyses in sectors of national financial systems where FSDs sought greater gender insights. This process guided the creation of an initial set of learning questions that shaped our intervention portfolio. This short document presents our current thinking on how we frame our work in the wider WEE ecosystem, where we are focusing our efforts and how we intend to support women’s economic empowerment.

We believe that women’s overall well-being is determined by their agency to exercise economic and non-economic choices. We consider that a critical contribution to women’s well-being is their ability to use financial solutions to improve their livelihoods. We are not concerned with simply changing access statistics or “closing the gender gap” in access to financial services. Alone, these kinds of metrics do not measure—or even proxy for—meaningful change in the lives of individuals.

Instead, and considering the need for greater focus on real economy impact, we realize that finance can play an important role in enabling and accelerating women’s economic and social empowerment. But it requires intention to position finance to support and drive change which gives rise to the creation of real-world value which impacts on livelihoods. Without fully accounting for gender in our work, the full economic and social potential of economies is held back and distributed unfairly, which results in harm to both individuals and societies at large.

We recognize that there are several theories proposing how gender equality can be achieved. Some focus on how gender-inclusive policies can support the smooth functioning of interactions between households, markets and institutions. These allow us to identify root causes of gender gaps but without guiding where greatest impact might be achieved. We can see how FSDs may support finance to address structural gender constraints, such as women’s access to education, or economic opportunities or assets. This is important work which can increase women’s economic empowerment – where they are directly impacted by such interventions, or indirectly through wider norm changes.