With more brands recognizing the role of women in economic development, there is an upsurge in the number of programs and initiatives targeted at the female gender. Financial institutions are not exempt from this. This edition of Brand Spark takes a look at how two financial institutions are promoting financial inclusivity for women.
– By Damilola Oyewusi
According to the World Bank’s Global Findex, women in developing economies like Nigeria are 20% less likely to have a formal bank account and much less likely to take a loan from any financial institution. Yet, a research by the Clinton foundation showed 41% of women in Nigeria are entrepreneurs. This begs the question of how these businesses are funded and sustained. It also draws attention to other factors that challenge easy access to financial services for women across the country. These include lack of information of financial advantages available to them, poor knowledge on business administration and the struggle to balance societal expectations with personal goals.
Despite these challenges, studies reveal that women who are financially empowered are more likely to contribute to the educational and mental development of their families and communities than men. This makes women pivotal to the achievement of more than half of the sustainable development goals and the improvement of the Nigerian economy. To start a new conversation on finance for women in Nigeria, several financial institutions have taken on the challenge of addressing the factors limiting access to financial services.
Diamond Woman was launched in 2015 as Diamond Bank’s proposition to provide women with services specifically tailored to suit their needs. It was introduced with the launch of the Diamond Woman website, a repository of knowledge to cater to the financial, lifestyle and business advisory needs of women. Women who sign up to become a Diamond Woman enjoy benefits on their Diamond Bank personal or business accounts.
Beyond the online community created to share information and engage women, the organization also recognizes the importance of knowledge transfer through the initiation of its Women of Vision mentorship program. The program partners with leading women across different industries to engage younger women.
Most noticeable about the Diamond Woman’s activities over the years is the consistency in advocating issues peculiar to women. From the fight against endometriosis to Domestic Abuse, HIV, Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF), Education, Mental Health and Depression, there have been both online and offline campaigns to change the narrative in these areas.
In terms of supporting female entrepreneurs, the Bank has groomed partnerships with Women’s World Banking, the Bank of Industry and several others to provide single digit micro-loans with 6 months moratorium to small and medium scale enterprises.
One of the most recurrent complaints about restrictions to loans is the requirement of properties as collateral to access facilities. Diamond Bank is well known amongst small business owners for its non-collateralized loans and for a commitment to financial inclusion. It is admirable to see this move cascade and focus on the female market.
The “W” Initiative
Access Bank introduced The “W” Initiative in 2014 as an offshoot of the Gender Empowerment Movement they had run from 2006. The initiative started with a department dedicated to serving female customers under their Inclusive Banking Group. Beyond the provision of banking services to women, the initiative encapsulates the Bank’s approach to banking women, taking into consideration their peculiar needs, challenges, and lifestyle. By creating three sub-segments – The “W” Young Professional, The “W” in Business and The “W” and Family – the “W” Initiative is able to curate relevant information, develop programs and form partnerships for the benefit of each specific target audience.
Apart from events to mark significant dates like the Women Entrepreneurship Day and Women’s Month, the team holds regular Breakfast meetings to engage stakeholders in specific industries, ranging from Fashion to Manufacturing and professionals in corporate environments, giving them access to direct and valuable data. In partnership with the Entrepreneurship Development Centre, they have been able to sustain an entrepreneurship workshop held in different zones of the country since 2016.
A major highlight and selling point of the “W” Initiative is the family-focused service, the Maternal Health Service Support, also known as MHSS. The service is designed to assist women with fertility and other health issues get access to the best medical care. This happens in partnership with some of the most recognized medical centres in Nigeria and across the world. Boasting of several successful surgeries and births, the MHSS stands alongside impressive stories of empowered business women to celebrate the footprints of the “W” Initiative.
To regulate financial activities, not all policies may be favourable to all women at all times, but it is impressive to see financial organizations prepare them to understand the requirements and empower them to be eligible for business grants. In addition to financial education and access to loans, both organizations are working with an understanding of the peculiarities of being a woman. Building a career and a business gets easier when women are able to create a balance between their family responsibilities and pursuing other personal goals.
Damilola Oyewusi is a Content and Digital Marketing Strategist working in the Social Innovation sector. She uses the power of strategic content and the dynamic nature of marketing communications to influence and amplify life-changing innovative solutions to social problems.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.