Effective use of Digital financial services (DFS) will empower women economically, stated panelists at BIGD's international conference titled "Digitalization and New Frontiers of Service Delivery: Opportunities and Challenges" on 22 June 2022 at BRAC Inn Auditorium.
Bangladesh is a rapidly developing economy facing complex gender dynamics. According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2020, Bangladesh ranks 50th out of 153 countries overall in gender parity. Women in Bangladesh especially lag behind men with regard to economic participation and opportunity, reads a press release.
However, increasing the financial market participation of Bangladeshi women may reduce these inequities.
Digital financial services (DFS) hold the potential to advance women's economic empowerment (WEE) through several pathways, including by generating higher account ownership; facilitating greater opportunities to save or access credit; lowering risks by improving privacy, confidentiality, and safety; strengthening women's control over their own finances; reducing costs of transaction and time, and diversifying economic activities.
However, WEE is complex, and its interplay with digital financial services is seldom studied. "Understanding the causal mechanisms between DFS and WEE, as well as ways to overcome barriers to women's access to DFS, is essential," said Kym Cole, the WEE-DiFine Initiative Director.
Transaction costs are one such barrier to women's digital financial access, both in Bangladesh and worldwide. Interestingly, evidence suggests that women may value transaction cost reductions differently than men. Identifying the role of transaction costs in women's demand for DFS can potentially close gender gaps across a wide variety of economic indicators, and ultimately advance women's economic empowerment.
The Women's Economic Empowerment and Digital Finance (WEE-DiFine) initiative, housed at the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development at BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was created to address such knowledge gaps.
Presently, WEE-DiFine supports a portfolio of 12 rigorous qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods projects – with 6 additional studies under contract – that examine the causal links between DFS and WEE in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. Ultimately, WEE-DiFine anticipates that this robust evidence will advance practical recommendations for the effective use of DFS to empower women economically.