The number of female mobile financial service users in the country is almost half of the figure of male MFS users, a market study report of International Finance Corporation revealed on Wednesday.
The report said only 27 per cent of women in the country accessed mobile financing at least once in the past as compared to the use by 53 per cent of men.
Despite a significant growth in registered female users over the last four years, only 6 per cent of women have registered accounts while 19 per cent of men have registered mobile finance accounts, it added.
The report was launched on Wednesday from a knowledge sharing event on ‘Closing the Gender Gap in Mobile Financial Inclusion’ at a city hotel in Dhaka, organised by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.
Identifying seven major barriers to using MFS, the report found that 43 per cent of female said they ‘do not have any use for it.’
Findings said 95 per cent of women used MFS products for receiving money only, while 9 per cent used it for saving money and 2 per cent for microfinance transactions.
As financial access in Bangladesh is low, MFS can provide alternative delivery channels to reach underserved segments such as women, especially in areas where it would be unsustainable for bank branches.
The report found that the median time taken to reach an agent outlet in average minutes was lowest in Dhaka and Sylhet, which was less than 5 minutes, while it was as high as 17 minutes in Barisal.
Although the majority of women surveyed noted that female agents are likely to be easier to approach and ‘talk to’ compared to male agents and are trustworthy along with maintaining confidentiality, keeping data secure and less likely to overcharge, the report said, only 0.4 per cent of agents in the country’s market are female.
State minister for finance and planning MA Mannan, who was the chief guest at the programme, said women constitute half of the society and they cannot be ignored if the country wants to achieve development and financial inclusion.
Although he appreciated the global aid agencies for their financial and other assistances to the country, he said almost 98 per cent of the assistances are given in the form of loans, which have to be paid with interest by the current and the future generations.
BB deputy governor SK Sur Chowdhury said MFS is an easier access to the formal banking system and the central bank is underway to revise the MFS guidelines for better digitalization.
Gender gap shows women are yet to enjoy the benefits of MFS and the scope for opening of mobile accounts with zero balance can be maintained for more time, he added.
Norwegian ambassador to Dhaka Sidsel Bleken was present as special guest at the event.
IFC country manager Wendy Werner said the discussions of the leaders from the public and private sectors who participated in the panel discussion sessions of the programme have highlighted the priorities for developing the digital finance ecosystem.
She said the shared insights into how partnerships among different stakeholders can be done can help close the gender gap in financial access.
Panellists suggested that trainings to rural women and entrepreneurs could solve a lot of problems as MFS is 80 per cent faster and cheaper in terms of transactional operations.
Despite the growth of smart phone, women are less adaptive to it and technology adaptation can be further included in the orientation manuals of female workers as a life skill, they said.
Surveys said 70 per cent of women are not confident about the knowledge of MFS as only 30 per cent are confident about the knowledge of MFS and technology adaptation.
However, based on a growth rate of 52 per cent, IFC expects 33 per cent of all adult women (19.6 million) in the country would be registered MFS users by 2020.
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