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LightCastle Facilitates Validation Workshop for WFP

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The Editor
August 3, 2022
LightCastle Facilitates Validation Workshop for WFP

A validation workshop based on the findings and recommendations from holistic research efforts on, “Situational Analysis for Enabling Digital Financial Inclusion and Women’s Economic Empowerment” by the World Food Programme (WFP) Bangladesh and the Department of Women Affairs under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoCWA) was held on the 25th of July with Ms. Farida Parvin, Director General of Department of Women Affairs as the Chief Guest along with representatives of 15+ key stakeholder organizations and 40+ participants. LightCastle Partners and James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University facilitated and functioned as consortium partners for the study.

WFP is conducting this study in two phases:

Initially, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) supported initiative aims to unearth strategies to help achieve a greater and sustainable impact for vulnerable women through large-scale Government to Person (G2P) payments. The workshop was the first validation program seconding the findings from phase one through the ecosystem stakeholders.

The second phase will focus on implementing the interventions recommended in phase one to support the design of the Vulnerable Woman Benefit (VWB) Programme for Bangladesh’s context.

The objective of the VWB Project

As per National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) the existing Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) program will be transformed into VWB program. DWA and WFP are currently working together to select 1 million vulnerable women all over the country who will be receiving benefits from January 2023 onwards. The VWB Programme’s overall aim is to ensure that the essential needs of these vulnerable women (including food and nutrition needs for themselves and their families) are provided. Additionally, this program would also catalyze improving their resilience and overall livelihoods through the creation of a more accessible and enabling financial ecosystem, mainly through a digital cash transfer program.

Designing Solutions for VWB through Validation Workshop

After holistic research, factors pertaining as enablers and barriers to vulnerable women’s inclusion in the digital financial ecosystem were identified, and based on those the recommendations were devised to ensure inclusion of this segment of the population, which added to a total of 11 suggested interventions. The workshop functioned as a platform for all the critical stakeholders in the ecosystem where open round-table discussion led to a holistic understanding of the situation at hand. A major objective behind the validation workshop was to identify strategic interventions based on the ranking of participants. The expected outcome is a consolidated understanding of the recommendations that the ecosystem actors thought would work in the best interest of the vulnerable women groups.

Key Takeaways

As mentioned by the chief guest Ms. Farida Parvin, the way forward in creating an inclusive digital finance ecosystem for all the vulnerable women groups will work hand in hand by imparting financial and technological literacy, as well as eradicating social taboos. A similar opinion was echoed by the representatives of different financial institutions, Mobile Financial Services, think tanks, NGOs, Mobile Network Operators, and private sector representatives.

Way Forward

The validation workshop will ultimately help the research teams and WFP to zoom in on the top three recommendations. On the 3rd of August, a follow-up Strategy Consultation Session with representatives from different ministries has been organized. The follow-up session looked to incorporate suggestions from different government institutions, with an explicit aim to ensure buy-in for the implementation phase. Phase two of the engagement plan will entail implementing the interventions through the Vulnerable Women Benefit (VWB) Programme.

Attending Organizations Identified as Key Stakeholders

MFS sector:

bKash | TAP | DANA | Upay | Rocket

Government Bodies:

a2i | Department of Women Affairs

Banks/NBFIs:

ONE Bank | Modhumoti Bank | Mercantile Bank Ltd.

MFI/NGO:

ESDO | mPower | UNCDF | Konna | Shakti Foundation | WFP | MJF | Swisscontact

MNO:

Bangalink

Think Tanks:

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development | WFP G2P Expert | Ecorys

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WRITTEN BY: The Editor

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