International Women's Day special report: Scale2Save partner addresses financial challenges facing women in Kenya.
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BRUSSELS, 8 March 2021 – A vast majority of financial service providers (FSPs) underestimate the potential women have within their market, ultimately widening the financial inclusion gender gap. Women make up half of the population in Kenya, yet they only form a small percentage of FSPs' customer base. Despite great strides made to widen financial inclusion in Kenya, women remain an untapped market.
This is mainly due to low levels of income, low levels of education and limited access to affordable financial services. To overcome these challenges, women actively take part in savings groups schemes called 'Chamaas', whereby members contribute a specific amount after a certain period, usually weekly or monthly. Members then take turns collecting the funds as loans at agreed intervals. Chamaas serve low-income earners who are unable to access funds from traditional lending institutions. Women who have developed a reasonable savings record make particularly good candidates for receiving funds as they demonstrate a high level of discipline and patience.
Women's financial inclusion: Postbank sees a way
Scale2Save partner Postbank has used these findings to promote women's financial inclusion in Kenya by developing a product dubbed M-Chama. Purposely designed for savings groups, the mobile banking platform allows women in rural areas to access convenient, safe and affordable financial services. Members can easily deposit, withdraw and redistribute funds through the mobile banking platform.
The shift to digital banking is timely given the accelerating change in customer behavior trends from traditional banking towards digital banking. Savings group members who were unable to meet and share information due to lockdown measures imposed by the Kenyan government, were still able to undertake their savings and business transactions using the mobile banking platform.
Postbank also added the 'Waridi' account to its range of products. Tailor made for women and designed exclusively to cater to their financial needs, Waridi is an individual transaction account that has no monthly maintenance fee and is easily accessible. It offers self-service channels through mobile and internet banking as well as ATM services. The low fees associated with the account have been a key driver for women and their female friends to open new accounts. This not only ensures that women get bank accounts, but that they also fully understand how to access and use them.
Postbank helps empower women, strengthen communities
Thanks to Postbank's outreach programmes, women savings groups across the country have been able to open M-Chama accounts. In the heart of Northern Kenya, several women came together and formed savings groups to support each other socially and financially. The RIWO Ward SILC Network comprising 107 women groups in Kapenguria were taken through financial literacy sessions in 2018. Through the common belief that unity is strength, they scaled up their small savings with the vision of carrying out activities that could economically empower them. With a sound plan in place, they were able to purchase a truck that they will use for commercial purposes, greatly improving their social economic situation.
Postbank also helped the Real Ladies Women Group in Kisumu become financially independent. Through their savings, the group was able to build rental houses with the land that they had purchased. The group has benefitted from Postbank's financial inclusion efforts which has positively impacted their lives and helped them achieve their goals.
About Kenya Post Office Savings Bank
The Kenya Post Office Savings Bank (Postbank) is primarily engaged in the mobilization of savings for national development. Postbank is committed to creating business growth while ensuring that delivery of services is done in an ethical and socially responsible manner. The bank considers the interests of the community and strives to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct and corporate responsibility in service delivery. Corporate Social Responsibility is fundamental to its culture and core values, with focus placed on environment, health, financial literacy and education. Wholly owned by the Government of Kenya and reports to the Ministry of Finance, Postbank is committed to the standards of corporate governance as set by the government and the Central Bank of Kenya for the public sector. For more info, visit www.postbank.co.ke