By Najib Mulema
Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU) has decried the ongoing tendency of excluding women from financial services saying the vice poses a threat if not properly addressed.
While addressing the media at FSDU offices in Kampala on Tuesday, Ms Jacqueline M. Musiitwa, the company’s Executive Director revealed that despite the critical role women play in the country’s economy, they are still excluded from formal financial services.
“We still have a role to play to make sure that women have access to formal financial services and also treated equally within the economic circle,” Ms Musiitwa said.
She also noted that mobile access to financial services is key to helping women prosper since customer journey towards financial inclusion is largely led by mobile money services, with close to a third of the population using the service actively.
Unfortunately according to Financial Inclusion insights survey of 2016 conducted in Uganda, it was revealed that women are less likely to own mobile phones and be active users of mobile money (out of the 63 percent users, 38 percent are men while 25 percent are women), but rather prefer resorting to informal services.
Ms Musiitwa attributed the problem of low mobile phone ownership among women to social cultural norms whereby they (women) face challenges in owning property and lack of independence in decision making.
However, Ms Catherine Atieno, the FSDU Gender Consultant disclosed that their company through various partnerships has fought tooth and nail to promote women’s financial inclusion.
She said as FSDU they started at the grass root through putting up mechanisms that give women and the general public confidence that their money is safe when they use formal financial services.
“FSDU through partnership with other representatives such as NGOs, facilitated provision of financial services to excluded segments of the population. For instance FSDU through partnership with MTN supported the translation of mobile money menu into seven languages in an effort to make it more accessible to people in peri-urban and rural areas,” said Ms Atieno.
She further stated that FSDU supported the Linkage Banking that has seen over 800 savings groups (VSLAs) comprising of over 70 percent women connect with financial institutions through mobile banking, offering safety and convenient access for their savings.
On the other hand, Mr. Vincent Tumwijukye, the Chief Executive Officer of Future Link Technologies also pointed out social culture norms as the main reason why women are largely excluded from financial services due to their busy schedule.
“Women fear to appear at Financial Institutions in fear that their husbands will think that they have a lot of money,”
On a good note, Mr. Tumwijukye said with their innovation of MSACCO women now days are able save and withdraw their money directly without their husbands knowing.
FSDU is an independent not-for-profit company committed to promoting greater access to financial services in Uganda.