Women’s contributions to economic processes matter, not only to women, but also as a means of achieving broader development outcomes. Evidence has demonstrated that when women have access to resources and opportunities, the benefits are large for their families, their communities, and ultimately for national and regional development efforts.
However, women continue to face greater financial exclusion and vulnerability, with most being underserved by the formal financial sector and unable to reach their full economic potential.
In this regard, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), convened a capacity building workshop on Women’s Financial Inclusion and Economic Empowerment in Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa, from 13th to 14th November 2023. The workshop was held as part of rolling-out the SADC Financial Inclusion Gender Action Plan as part of the implementation of the SADC Strategy on Financial Inclusion and SME’s Access to Finance (2023-2028).
In her opening remarks at the workshop, Ms. Kealeboga Kelly Dambuza, Acting Head of Gender Unit at SADC Secretariat, underscored SADC’s commitment to the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment through the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (revised in 2016), which aims to promote the empowerment of women, eliminate discrimination, and achieve gender equality through the implementation of gender-sensitive legislation, policies, programmes, and projects.
Ms. Dambuza highlighted that in 2019, SADC adopted the Regional Multi-dimensional Women Economic Empowerment Programme to enhance women’s economic participation, address gender disparities, and promote inclusive economic growth in the region. She highlighted that, the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015–2063 (SISR) emphasises the participation of women in the industrialisation processes.
She said there is a great call for member states to take appropriate social, political and financial measures to address women’s poverty, one of which is the use of gender budgeting tools and principles.
For her part, Ms. Annelene Bremer, Head of Cooperation at the German Embassy to Botswana and SADC, indicated that the German Government has funded the SADC Project on Industrialisation and Women Economic Empowerment Project that worked towards greater participation of women in the SADC priority value chains. She pointed out that addressing the financial inclusion of women is an important step to achieving greater participation of women in the priority value chains.
Ms. Bremer reiterated the German Government’s commitment to supporting women economic empowerment in Southern Africa and to working with SADC towards achieving financial inclusion of women in the mainstream of the regional economy. She commended SADC Secretariat for taking such an important step of addressing financial inclusion of women across the region.
This workshop emphasised on financial literacy for women entrepreneurs, use of gender budgeting tools and on implementing a women-centred approach to financial services and products. It was noted that implementation of blanket approaches to financial inclusion initiatives will not change the status quo and sustainable inclusive economic growth will not be achieved. Instead, there is need to identify and address the needs of women and take into consideration that women are not a homogeneous group; their differences should be catered for in the design of financial services and products. The workshop further identified that data is critical to inform the needs of women customers.
The workshop strengthened the capacity of SADC Member States, in particular the government officials from the Ministries of Finance, Trade and Gender and the representatives of Central Banks from 14 SADC Member States, to implement gender-responsive financial inclusion strategies as a contribution to women’s economic empowerment. Key lessons and experiences were shared on designing and delivering women-centric financial services and products and on implementing key gender mainstreaming strategies within the finance sector.