Our present Modi government has made a lot of news headlines for their various wide-ranged and revolutionary schemes and programmes, which aims to improve financial inclusion, job availability, equal education and much more. One such scheme that captured the general mass’s attention is Pradhan mantri jan dhan yojna, one of India’s flagship financial inclusion scheme. But how successful are these schemes, when it comes to financial inclusion and women’s issues in India.
Let’s have a look at the past year’s report card in regards to women’s issues. Starting from #metoo till sabarimala issues, we have had an interesting year that witnessed many unique developments. While one sort came out in the open and stood for a change, other persisted to stick with the old ways and yet another category silently observed. Despite such increase in action, it is shocking to know that, a WEF report claims that it will take atleast two centuries to close the gender gap in the existing workplace. Though it’s still a difficult pill to swallow when it comes to women empowerment and women financial inclusion, we still have to swallow it for a better tomorrow.
At present where do we stand?
On close analysis of our society, the limitations that are put on present-day women ranges from gender violence, limited mobility, not being able to work, inequality and much more. These issues put certain strain on their access to finances, through lack of financial resources and capacities to create wealth, resulting in increased liability on other unconventional financial channels like borrowing and saving from friends, families and self-help groups.
If we take a closer look at our geographical discrimination embedded on India’s financial inclusion narrative, it gets revealed that there are considerably fewer beneficiaries across North Eastern India and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, the rest of the country posses almost 100% financial inclusive households. But before rejoicing, one has to note down that the gender split in the bank accounts have been conveniently overlooked. If that veil is removed one will have clear statistical proof that women’s participation on ordinary functionalities like savings and borrowings are disproportionally low. The important factor which prohibits the advancement of women’s financial inclusion is, our government’s gender neutrality.
Gender neutrality, in its basic sense stands for the idea that policies, languages and other social institutions must avoid distinguishing the roles according to an individual’s gender or sex, to avoid discrimination. While at most cases this works for the enhancement of our society, we can not see financial inclusion under the same lens. A research done on women’s participation on financial products reveal that, most of the rural area women are not interested to know about these products as their husbands and other male counterparts of their family, are taking care of all their financial needs and requirements. On further analysis its even revealed that they don’t have time to learn these new concepts due to their other domestic commitments. This belief has to be broken at its fundamental level and women centric financial policies, that encourages their increased participation in financial matters has to be encouraged.
One can’t simply say government has not taken any measures to mitigate this issue. Many of government’s schemes have certain criteria of selections that align towards achieving women financial inclusion. However, factors like absence of adequate gender-specific data on usage of accounts by women, duplication of accounts, lack of imagination and consideration, improper target-specific strategies and dormancy issues have hindered the implementation of numerous financial inclusion schemes for women.
Strategies that can be implemented
Financial Literacy- With technology’s drastic development and implementation across all walk of life, we can use it as a backbone to innovate and deepen financial literacy among women. With technology government can provide a medium that offers financial literacy easily, conveniently and in a way that doesn’t disturb their day-to-day businesses, thereby overcoming challenges like availability of physical access, trainers etc. Also, thanks to the ‘mobile phone boom’ that our society is witnessing for the past few years women can educate themselves through their phones and manage their finances better thorough their phones.
Asset Creation- On a study conducted by a research centre, while enquring what prevents women to access financial products, the most comman answer, especially from domestic sector working ladies, was an apparent disinterest on financial products and services as they are already been managed by their male counterparts. This trend has to change. Women have to realise that financial inclusion is not only a dire necessity but also their birth right. Hence government’s financial inclusion schemes need to go beyond just providing accessibility services, awareness and support. It should aim at enhancing women’s financial solutions so that it supports women in building assets and amassing wealth. Building access points that increases women’s participation in the financial ecosystem through agent networks and other distribution channels is the need of the hour.