Notable success has been achieved in innovating digital financial services in Bangladesh, but there is still huge gender gap in accessing and using the services, a survey found.
Only 11 percent women use mobile financial services (MFS) compared to 30 percent men, according to a consumer behaviour research titled “Why do women use digital financial services (DFS) in Bangladesh?”.
The findings of the survey conducted by global consulting firm MicroSave Consulting (MSC) and the UN Capital Development Fund's (UNCDF) were disclosed at an event at Amari Dhaka hotel yesterday.
The research suggests that gender is not a deterrent to accessing and using financial services, but the gap exists in the design and delivery of financial services.
Consequently, equitable access and uptake of MFSs by both women and men require recognition of these differences, as well as enablers and barriers faced by women.
“Only when these are well understood, suitable strategies and design products can be developed to meet the needs of women,” the research said.
Among the digital financial services, the research particularly examined MFSs as these are the most prevalent in Bangladesh.
Among the 76 respondents the researchers spoke to, 57 were women and eight men who used MFS and the rest were agents.
The study identified that volume and frequency of need influence women to use MFSs.
Women use MFSs when they receive money such as remittance and tuition fees and send money to parents or pay hostel fees as students, according to the study.
Families can motivate women to use the digital financial services. Immediate family members and friends who use MFSs play an important role in motivating women to open MFS accounts. In most cases, these members are males.
When it comes to learning how to use MFSs, it appears that women learn themselves mostly as well as with support from other family members, according to the study.
Convenience is a big factor that leads women to use MFSs, the survey found.
At present, MFS service providers don't follow or evaluate gender disaggregated data analysis to understand women's behaviour on MFS use, said Bhavana Srivastava, associate director of MicroSave Consulting.
“This indicates that providers may not still be looking at women users as unique customers.”
A focus on building a larger set of influencers who could act as catalysts in creating a financial services space for women would encourage them to use MFSs frequently, she said.
Md Ashraful Alam, country project coordinator of the UNCDF's Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) programme, also spoke.