Assessing the Current Ecosystem of Financial Products for Women in Bangladesh

LightCastle Analytics Wing
December 13, 2022
Assessing the Current Ecosystem of Financial Products for Women in Bangladesh

Feature Image Credit: Women at Work (Flickr Album) UN Women Asia and the Pacific

Despite commendable progress in the social and economic inclusion of women in Bangladesh, there remain significant gaps in women’s – 

  • Labor force participation; 
  • Entrepreneurship; and 
  • Economic autonomy. 

Female financial inclusion can have cross-cutting effects, improving gender equity in all areas. Accessible, affordable, and appropriately designed financial products are key to creating opportunities for women and empowering them to succeed.

The Aspire to Innovate (a2i) program of the ICT Division, supported by the UNDP, promotes women’s inclusion in the financial ecosystem to support the Government of Bangladesh’s agenda to ensure inclusive, accessible, and affordable services for all citizens.

This study identifies – 

  • Gender-focused services currently offered by financial institutions in Bangladesh; 
  • Recognizes the shortcomings of these existing products from a gender lens; and 
  • Suggests financial solutions to overcome these shortcomings, with the high-level goal of bridging the gender financial inclusion gap. 

We used a market systems approach to gather qualitative insights from multiple stakeholders, including formal and informal women’s groups, financial institutions, and regulators. These insights were supplemented with a thorough review of existing financial inclusion literature.

The study found that gender-focused products typically have concessionary interest rates compared to gender-neutral products. Financial institutions are also organizing development programs for entrepreneurs and offering supplementary benefits such as health insurance, fee waivers on credit cards, and locker facilities to engage more women. However, the size limit for collateral-free loans at many institutions remains below Bangladesh Bank’s benchmark.

Small-scale female entrepreneurs tend to avoid formal institutions due to a lack of adequate business documentation, while medium-scale female entrepreneurs do so due to lengthy loan processing times. Small-scale female entrepreneurs instead seek financing from alternative sources such as MFIs and associations due to greater accessibility. Around half of all loan applications dropped by female entrepreneurs are rejected due to improper business financials and/or lack of trade licenses.

In summary, this study provides valuable insights into the current ecosystem of financial products for women in Bangladesh and offers recommendations for improving access to finance for women entrepreneurs. 

The recommendations include providing capacity development training through entrepreneurship fairs and online platforms, marketing activities in collaboration with women entrepreneurs’ associations, and making medium-scale entrepreneurs aware of the benefits of using digital accounting. 

Additionally, MFIs are recommended to provide interest benefits if borrowers can prove their involvement in the business they own, and MFS providers are suggested to train women to use additional products available on their platform.

To learn more about the Current Ecosystem of Financial Products for Women in Bangladesh Document download full report

WRITTEN BY: LightCastle Analytics Wing

At LightCastle, we take a data-driven approach to create opportunities for growth and impact. We consult and collaborate with development partners, the public sector, and private organizations to promote inclusive economic growth that positively changes the lives of people at scale. Being a data-driven and transparent organization, we believe in democratizing knowledge and information among the stakeholders of the economy to drive inclusive growth.

For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected]

Want to collaborate with us?

Our experts can help you solve your unique challenges

Join Our Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with our Thought Leadership and Insights