By Victoria Byenkya, Manager Women in Business Program at dfcu Bank.
The clock is ticking on financial inclusion and a greater focus on women can go a long way in helping achieve the 2030 vision on global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Greater access to financial services for women is considered a key enabler for gender equality and women empowerment as one of the 17 ambitious SDGs.
The SDGs target to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources. The private sector has continued to play a significant role in the pursuit of these goals.
Over the past few years, the conversation around financial inclusion for women has gained momentum and along with it, the growth in the number of women operating in the business environment.
Nonetheless, there are still many women held back from participating in income-generating ventures ultimately affecting the extent to which they can improve their lives and those of their families.
According to research done by the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited(UWEAL), despite the fact that women own one-third of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which are top drivers of job creation in emerging markets, they continue to face a range of barriers and constraints that prevent them from accessing financial services and benefiting fully from these services.
High up on the list of constraints is the credit gap and availability of information to help them better run their businesses.
The lack of access to financial services reduces women’s capacity to escape the poverty trap and manage their own resources independently, thereby reducing their opportunity to participate in productive entrepreneurial projects.
It is important to note that women with low income, do not meet institutional requirements for access to credit: they typically do not hold property titles or have a credit history or other any other requisite collateral. There are technological, policy, legal, and cultural barriers that make it difficult for women to actively get involved effectively in business. These obstacles marginalize women and propagate the gender economic gap.
Embedding financial literacy in programs where women have significant representation is a good starting point.
For instance, in 2017, dfcu Bank in partnership with Daily Monitor and Uganda Investment Authority formed a strategic partnership to empower women entrepreneurs under a campaign dubbed ‘Rising Woman’ with the theme ‘Taking your business forward’.
The initiative offers a platform for women entrepreneurs across the country to learn, network and receive mentorship as they are equipped with skills and resources to run a successful business.
dfcu Bank continues to be one of the top players offering women a comprehensive mix of financial and non- financial products and services to support their businesses.
Financial literacy can empower women to develop a financial identity even with their small household savings.
This can help them to get access to formal credit for gainful occupation giving them economic freedom and power.
It can additionally motivate women to generate sustainable income through SMEs because development in any sphere would be incomplete without equitable participation and contribution of women.
Through this campaign over 800 women entrepreneurs across the country have been equipped with business management skills to enable them run successful businesses this year.
The women entrepreneurs were also encouraged to enter a proposal writing competition where they can pitch their ideas for funding. The top 3 winners will win UGX 15 million, 10 million and 5 million respectively. The Top 10 clubs will take part in an all-expense paid study tour to Nairobi.
Not only that, but a business expo has also been organized for the women to showcase their products and services at a free cost at Hotel Africana on 16th and 17th November. The campaign will be wrapped up with an awards dinner to recognize exceptional women.