KARACHI: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is taking initiatives under its comprehensive National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), which will prioritise women’s financial inclusion. Furthermore, the SBP plans to launch its path-breaking gender mainstreaming policy called Banking on Equality, said Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Dr Reza Baqir.
He was speaking at an in-house event held at SBP Karachi today to commemorate International Women’s Day for appreciating the role of women in general and in SBP and its subsidiaries, in particular.
Governor SBP Dr Reza Baqir was the Chief Guest, and the event was attended by the Deputy Governors, senior officials and female officers of SBP and subsidiaries in Karachi. For the first time in its history, the SBP staff throughout the country witnessed the program available through in-house live streaming.
Governor SBP, in his opening remarks, lauded all the good work done by women who are part of SBP and its subsidiaries. He recognised Pakistani women for their vital role in shaping and strengthening our economy and society.
He added that promoting equal opportunities for women and men for accessing and pursuing financial and professional endeavours is critical for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in any country. Improved gender parity in financial and economic opportunities can enhance socio-economic development outcomes not just for the present but also for future generations, he noted.
Women’s equal access to financial services is a key priority for a country like Pakistan, whose female population of more than 100 million significantly lags behind men in terms of financial inclusion and contribution to economic activity. Only 29% of women in Pakistan have a bank account, among the lowest in the world. He lamented that this disparity severely impedes Pakistan’s national economic development.
Dr Baqir highlighted that although Pakistan has made some progress in terms of financial inclusion in recent years, a gaping gender divide remains in the country. Without women’s active participation, our country’s social and economic potential would remain constrained. He emphasised that incorporating a gender perspective in existing policies and industry practices is imperative to build inclusive financial systems that equally serve women and men.
Cognizant of prevailing issues and difficulties faced by women in access to financial services, SBP is taking initiatives to provide a more enabling environment, Dr Baqir shared. These initiatives include a comprehensive National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) to prioritise women’s financial inclusion and RAAST, i.e. a micropayment gateway to offer advance digital solutions.
In addition to promoting financial literacy in women segments in rural and peri-urban areas, SBP has launched a Credit Guarantee and Refinance Scheme, which offers a zero per cent refinance rate and 60% risk coverage for small businesses run by women entrepreneurs. He elucidated that SBP is also working on a path-breaking gender mainstreaming policy called Banking on Equality, in consultation with other stakeholders to reduce the gender gap in financial inclusion.
The proposed policy’s goal is to engender equality in banking and reduce the gender gap in financial inclusion. The proposed policy identifies five critical pillars under which actions are targeted towards improving institutional diversity, incorporating a gender lens for development and marketing of tailored bank products, modification of approaches towards women customers’ facilitation, collecting gender-disaggregated data, and prioritising a gender focus in SBP’s policies.
Deputy Governor SBP, Ms Sima Kamil, also spoke on occasion, followed by senior female executives who shared their journey of success at SBP. The floor was then opened for other officers of the Bank to share their achievements during their professional career at SBP. Female employees of SBP’s subsidiary in locations outside Karachi participated virtually, and the audience, with great applause, viewed their video-recorded messages.