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ISLAMABAD: Women make up almost half of Pakistan’s total population, but their contribution to measured economic activity is far below than potential due to limited access to quality and affordable financial services.

Women’s financial inclusion has emerged as a priority for Pakistan’s largest digital bank, Mobilink Microfinance Bank Limited (MMBL). Addressing the urgency to ensure equal economic participation of the women, coupled with the need to foster their financial inclusion by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), MMBL launched Women Inspirational Network (WIN) programme in February 2021.

The programme focuses on uplifting women entrepreneurs through end-to-end partnerships, design thinking and business fundamentals upskilling, provision of women-centric products & services, as well as resources enabling women to set up digital shops while ensuring online safety.

Furthermore, the initiative aims at empowering women through leadership on gender sensitivity, and their financial inclusion. Just within 2021, over 100 women urban startups were upskilled on design thinking through collaboration with Google and National Incubation Centre, over 400 rural women businesses were upskilled through a Learning Management System and in person sessions covering business fundamentals through CARE, end to end support was given to women borrowers for establishing digital shops without cost through Daraz, and students and academia were sponsored to promote solutions for Women Online Safety through hackathon with National University of Sciences and Technology.

Last year, the Bint-e-Hawwa deposits and saving accounts- a unique offering for women entrepreneurs, closed on the year-end with a total of over PKR 136 million, while an amount of over PKR 1.8 million was disbursed, under the same. Furthermore, the disbursement ratios to women grew by 25 percent YoY and the overall active women borrower ratio grew by 21.17 percent YoY.

During the same tenure, MMBL also witnessed a 100 percent growth in female headcount across its extensive network of branches, thereby facilitating the seamless provision of its exclusive products for female borrowers.

While addressing the unique financial needs of women, MMBL launched its ‘Nine-Point Agenda for Financial Inclusion’ to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, highlighting key recommendations under the domain of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) while identifying and investing in innovative digital financial solutions in product design and policy-making to promote women empowerment at all tiers.

Commenting on MMBL’s role in financially uplifting women, its Chief Finance & Digital Officer, Sardar Mohammad Abubakr said “the MMBL is committed to the cause of fostering financial inclusion through its diverse portfolio and offerings. Apart from providing digital financial products and services, the bank also trains its high potential women borrowers in various areas including but not limited to Financial Management, Personal Entrepreneurial Competencies, and Business Planning through dedicated Learning Management Systems with our strategic partners.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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