Women make up almost half of Pakistan’s total population, but their contribution to measured economic activity is far below its potential due to limited access to quality and affordable financial services. Women’s financial inclusion has emerged as a priority for Pakistan’s largest digital bank, Mobilink Microfinance Bank Limited (MMBL). Addressing the urgency to ensure equal economic participation of the women, coupled with the need to foster their financial inclusion by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), MMBL launched Women Inspirational Network (WIN) program in February 2021.
The program focuses on uplifting women entrepreneurs through end-to-end partnerships, design thinking and business fundamentals upskilling, provision of women-centric products & services, as well as resources enabling women to set up digital shops while ensuring online safety. Furthermore, the initiative aims at empowering women through thought leadership on gender sensitivity, and their financial inclusion. Just within 2021, over 100 women urban startups were upskilled on design thinking through collaboration with Google and National Incubation Centre, over 400 rural women businesses were upskilled through a Learning management system and in-person sessions covering business fundamentals through CARE, end to end support was given to women borrowers for establishing digital shops without cost through DARAZ, and students and academia were sponsored to promote solutions for Women Online Safety through hackathon with National University of Sciences and Technology.
Last year, the Bint-e-Hawwa deposits and saving accounts- a unique offering for women entrepreneurs, closed on the year-end with a total of over PKR 136 Million, while an amount of over PKR 1.8 Million was disbursed, under the same. Furthermore, the disbursement ratios to women grew by 25% YoY and the overall active women borrower ratio grew by 21.17% YoY. During the same tenure, MMBL also witnessed a 100% growth in female headcount across its extensive network of branches, thereby facilitating the seamless provision of its exclusive products for female borrowers.
While addressing the unique financial needs of women, MMBL launched its ‘9-Point Agenda for Financial Inclusion’ to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, highlighting key recommendations under the domain of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) while identifying and investing in innovative digital financial solutions in product design and policy-making to promote women empowerment at all tiers.
Commenting on MMBL’s role in financially uplifting women, its Chief Finance & Digital Officer, Sardar Mohammad Abubakr said,
“MMBL is committed to the cause of fostering financial inclusion through its diverse portfolio and offerings. Apart from providing digital financial products and services, the bank also trains its high potential women borrowers in various areas including but not limited to Financial Management, Personal Entrepreneurial Competencies, and Business Planning through dedicated Learning Management Systems with our strategic partners. With the help of its expansive network, MMBL has not only trained over 400 women borrowers and 100+ urban entrepreneurs but has financially empowered more than 350,000 women across the nation. Our key partnerships with multiple stakeholders including SBP, Care International in Pakistan, Google Developer Groups (GDG) Islamabad, National Incubation Center (NIC), Daraz, National University of Sciences & Technology, and IBTIDA have further enhanced women-owned SME’s by providing them appropriate platforms for their businesses’ sustainable growth.”
“Women’s financial inclusion is not only a critical part of national development, but the bedrock of financial sector development in Pakistan”, said Sima Kamil, Deputy Governor, State Bank of Pakistan. “Gone are the times when we aimed for a gender-neutral focus in financial inclusion. Now, we are focusing on gender-intentional policies that stimulate women empowerment at all tiers and allow them to participate in the economic sphere. In this regard, SBP’s Banking on Equality policy launched in 2021 is a landmark initiative to embed a gender lens in the financial institutions’ policies and practices. I am pleased to see that MMBL’s WIN program strongly resonates with SBP’s agenda under Banking on Equality policy, and the contributions of the program during the last year are valuable and well-acknowledged by us.” she added.
While celebrating its yearly accomplishments, MMBL builds on the success of the past and renews the sense of passion and ambition around dedicated resources targeted towards empowering its female borrowers. With its groundbreaking partnerships with several like-minded stakeholders, the bank aims to unlock the digital financing needs of women in both urban and rural areas. Going forward, MMBL strives to promote digital initiatives and will continue to collaborate with its strategic partners to ensure that the banking ecosystem is gender-responsive.