Women are disproportionately excluded from accessing resources and opportunities and targeted measures are needed to achieve financial inclusion, said State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Reza Baqir.

Moderating a session titled “Consultative Dialogue on SBP’s Banking on Equality Policy” on Tuesday, he said that strategies for achieving financial inclusion had an implicit assumption to utilise each citizen, both men and women, as a driving agent to achieve development goals.

The forthcoming Banking on Equality Policy would introduce a gender lens within the financial sector through identified pillars and a set of specific measures to bring a shift towards women-friendly business practices, he said.

In this regard, several focus group discussions have been held with a wide range of domestic stakeholders.

The aim of the webinar was to learn about gender responsive policies from global leaders and their experience of gender financial inclusion in the context of a developing country such as Pakistan.

He appreciated SBP team for taking the initiative which identified the practical steps required to address the gender gap through an intentional approach in the financial sector.

During discussion, World Bank Global Director for Gender Caren Grown highlighted that gender neutrality in practice became an unconscious gender bias due to which women were ignored. In that regard, she emphasised that a gender lens should be applied to financial products and services.

Bank OCBC NISP Indonesia President Director Parwati Surjaudaja shared the work that her bank was doing in Indonesia and talked about what Pakistan could learn from Jakarta’s success in improving financial inclusion given that both countries had growing Islamic banking markets. Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian shared that women-owned businesses had demonstrated a change, especially in Pakistan’s retail sector.

World Bank South Asia Vice President Hartwig Schafer and International Finance Corporation (IFC) Vice President for Asia and Pacific Alfonso Garcia Mora appreciating SBP’s efforts to improve gender financial inclusion in Pakistan.

The discussion allowed experts to share their experiences of gender mainstreaming and aided the consultative phase of SBP’s gender policy. The webinar was helpful in gaining astute feedback from relevant global experts in gender policy and practice.

The policy will be reviewed in line with this feedback as well as feedback from Pakistani stakeholders and will be launched in March 2021.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2021.

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