Giving women better access to finance could unlock $330 billion in annual global revenue

Giving women better access to finance could unlock $330 billion in annual global revenue

Development organization CARE reveals enormous economic and social potential of women who are achieving a 500% income increase


CARE is firmly convinced that financial inclusion is one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty for women. The international development organization highlights stark differences in the access provided to men versus women.  CARE releases encouraging data from its recent work and global research, showing that women are a high value investment. 

A lack of access to finance is one of the major barriers facing women entrepreneurs in low-income communities. 80 per cent of women owned businesses with credit needs are either unserved or underserved – a $1.7 trillion financing gap. By working with women on how to collectively save money, develop their business skills and facilitating access to affordable loans, CARE has seen an astounding uplift in success rates.  In Ethiopia, CARE has recently supported 5.000 women entrepreneurs in this way, resulting in an increase in their income of 500%.

All data points in the same direction: investing in women’s economic empowerment is critical to unlock their economic and social potential. Women are shown to be stronger savers, more prudent borrowers and calculated risk-takers. Giving women better access to financial products and services could unlock $330 billion in annual global revenue.

CARE is therefore calling on the global financial sector to improve products and services for women.  This will not only have a positive impact on individual women, but also their communities and, ultimately, national economies.

Through CARE’s ‘Access Approved’ campaign, women from Sri Lanka, Ivory Coast, Jordan and Peru share their stories on film for the first time, telling the banks what they think is needed to open up access to finance for women.  These new films aim to bring the real issues to the fore, providing clear and personal recommendations to the financial sector including:

  1. Develop products and services that are specific to women’s needs (Martha from Peru)
  2. Offer alternative solutions to collateral requirements, such as loans based on savings group activities, and introduce loans with more flexible repayment terms (Jeanne from Ivory Coast)
  3. Train and employ more women within the financial industry  (Sarojini from Sri Lanka and Bara’a from Jordan)

Men dominate the financial sector and traditionally, financial products and services have been designed by men. Women continually feel exasperated by the way financial companies serve them, citing disrespect, poor advice, contradictory policies, and seemingly endless red tape and one-size-fits-all forms. Women have different demands than men, for example they want more detailed information, timesaving access to services, easy to navigate websites and easier access to staff and peers.  

Sarojini from Sri Lanka shares her own experience: “When I tried to deal with male bank managers they couldn’t understand what I had been through and I wasn’t comfortable openly discussing our poverty with them. They would casually say to me, ‘amma (ma’am) we aren’t giving out any more loans. I was frustrated and had almost given up. But I thought I would just try this one last bank and when I arrived, I saw that the bank manager was a woman. She could clearly see that I was a real businesswoman, employing other women and running a good business. So I got the loan I needed!

Sarojini participates in CARE’s Women in Enterprise Programme, supported by H&M Foundation, which has reached 133.000 women entrepreneurs globally since 2014.  The programme shows that when women learn how to manage savings and have access to the right business skills training, they can successfully build their own enterprises.  In Ethiopia, the programme supported 5.000 women from the slums of Addis Ababa to set up their own businesses.  Approximately 70 per cent did not have any savings in the beginning of the project - this number was reduced to 3.6% in 2018. Through CARE’s partnership with a microfinance provider, many of the Ethiopian women were also able to access low-interest loans, which they are now successfully repaying. 

Saving is a vital foundation for economic independence and CARE’s global flagship Village Savings & Loans Associations have directly supported nearly 7 million members across 45 countries over the past 25+ years.  These VSLAs have created pathways for nearly 1 million members to open their first bank account.

Reintje van Haeringen, Chief Executive of CARE Nederland concludes: “Investing in women entrepreneurs is a triple opportunity: there is a business case for financial institutions; it improves the enterprises and lives of women; and the domino effect of equality will be felt in their communities and beyond.  This is an untapped market for financial institutions and we want to work with them to make it work for everyone.”