ISLAMABAD: The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has released guidelines for the issuance of gender bonds to increase the financial inclusion of women and encourage female entrepreneurship.
The guidelines, issued in pursuant to Section 172 of the Securities Act, 2015, aim to facilitate companies and issuers of debt securities to diversify their source of financing and provide an additional financial instrument to a particular class of investors.
As a step towards the promotion of gender equality – the issuance of gender bonds will improve the access to leadership positions and gender-positive corporate policies. As per the gender bond guidelines, all issuers who are eligible to issue debt securities, including sukuk bonds, either by way of a public offer or private placement are eligible to issue gender bonds, as long as ensuring compliance with the applicable regulatory framework.
The amount of funds raised from the issuance of gender bonds shall be utilised to finance projects related to women uplift and economic empowerment such as access to finance/credit; micro, small and medium-sized enterprise development; agriculture development; financial literacy and entrepreneurship training, disaster risk management; housing for low-income segment of women etc.
Like other debt instruments, such as green, social and sustainability bonds, a gender bond can have any type of financial structure as a general bond, a project bond or a securitisation scheme.
Gender bonds are a relatively recent development and still nascent in the field of finance. Internationally gender-labeled bonds have been issued by a variety of entities, ranging from large commercial banks to NGOs, to multilateral development banks.
Most gender bonds issued have relied on the Institute of Capital Market Association (ICMA)’s Social Bond Principles, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles as reference standards.