Only 11 per cent of women are registered users of Mobile Financial Services (MFS) in the country while 30 per cent of men are using such services, a study has revealed.
Volume or frequency of need, influencers and convenience are the main three factors that motivate women to use Mobile Financial Services (MFS), found the research, styled 'Gender Centrality of Mobile Financial Services (MFS) in Bangladesh'.
Lack of literacy, far distance, social and religious barriers and absence of innovation in product design are found as main hurdles for women to avail the services.
The study by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) was conducted under its SHIFT SAARC in Bangladesh programme.
By investigating the centrality of gender in Digital Financial Services (DFS) through qualitative research, the study's aim was to make sense of "how and why" women use the services.
What is more, the study demonstrates that there are multiple factors including literacy, access to proof of identity, access to a mobile phone, household power relations, availability of agents, relationship with agents, presence of influencers, product design and services delivery affect the degree of usage.
The research suggests that MFS product design, for example, may need to consider introducing a Bangla interface for women.
It revealed that the factors influence women to use MFS which are jointly related with 'Financial Services Space'- a concept coined by an analysis.
The research proposes that this space is crucial for each woman in order to use MFS which implies that more space leads to more use.
There are four distinct types of MFS users among women-beginners, evolving users, advanced users and third-party users, the study observes.
The research argues that there is a wide diversity among the MFS women customer segment, for example, entrepreneur, professional with higher income, professional with lower income, student, and housewife.
The degree of using MFS varies across the customer segment.
Thus, it is crucial to design a product which will contain each segment's specific requirement.
The study suggests that investing in greater market research to improve understanding of different sub-segments of women clients to inform both policy and practice.
More precisely, to draw insights on women users' behaviour it is significant to use data analytics to improve product features.
The UNCDF's SHIFT SAARC in Bangladesh programme is being implemented since mid-2016 to accelerate digital financial inclusion in the country through research and data initiatives, policy advocacy, capacity building, and technical assistance for the public and private sector and supporting innovations in the digital finance domain.
The interventions are supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the European Union (EU).
Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Khondaker Golam Moazzem said the study is logically conducted and a positive initiative.
Lack of independence of the women in terms of pecuniary matter, not being self-reliant and natural reasons can also be the factors for not availing the services, he told the FE.
He also laid emphasis on increasing the income of women and long-term savings for them to this end.
He suggested that the digital service providers should create awareness among the people specially targeting women and increase gender-sensitive promotional activities across the country.
The barriers and problems of women regarding the MFS should be inspected very closely and the financial products should be made according to them, the research director said.
Head of Corporate Communications & PR, Corporate Communications bKash Ltd. Shamsuddin Haider Dalim said: "bKash finds it very useful research considering our half of the population is female."
"We also acknowledge the findings of it," he told the FE.
"As MFS service provider, bKash is facilitating convenience for our female users in many ways," he said.
Like remittance is being distributed to the female members of the family through MFS, mobile recharge is easy from home; also bill payment is hassle-free, said Dalim.
Salaries of readymade garment factory (RMG) workers are being distributed through MFS where 65 per cent of the workers are female, he mentioned.
Students are getting their stipend on MFS where significant numbers of receiver are female, he noted.
"Female participation is also increasing in merchant payments and in e-commerce. Thus more opportunities are being creating to reduce the gender gap in MFS," the head of PR said.
"Yet practice modality of meeting financial need in our society still predominantly addressed by the male member/s of the family," he further said.
Female participations in financial activities are increasing along with the economic growth which will allow the behavioural changes in MFS sector also, he added.
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