Global evidence reveals that applying a gender lens in designing financial services, products and policies can drive women’s financial inclusion and their participation in economic activities.

To advance women’s economic empowerment through financial inclusion, Women’s World Banking (WWB) together with Wing Bank (Cambodia) Plc, convened more than 40 regulators, financial services providers and other industry stakeholders on December 7 at the Hyatt Regency in Phnom Penh.

Women’s World Banking, an international non-profit organisation, has more than 40 years of experience in designing solutions with financial services providers to tap the low-income women’s market using its women-centred design approach.

The launch event highlighted findings and recommendations from Women’s World Banking’s work with financial service providers in Cambodia over the past two years, including Wing Bank and AMK Microfinance Institution.

Participating in the event were senior leaders of key government ministries and agencies, commercial banks, microfinance deposit-taking institutions, microfinance institutions, industry associations and non-profit organisations in Cambodia.

Wing Bank has been at the forefront of driving financial, gender and digital inclusion in Cambodia, with the majority of factory workers getting their salaries through Wing Bank accounts.

Women’s World Banking’s ongoing project with Wing Bank identified barriers that women factory workers face in accessing and using formal financial services.

Having access to financial services is just the beginning of a woman’s financial journey, the next step is to increase usage of different financial products and services.

“It is surprising that the women customer segment still has lower penetration of mobile banking app compared to men.

"This may be a result of a lack of confidence in using digital financial services, even after they have access to them,” said Manu Rajan, division CEO of Wing.

He noted that women might feel more comfortable asking questions directly to one of the extensive network of Wing agents, who are predominantly women, preferring to speak to them when they have problems carrying out transactions or have specific queries about Wing’s products and services.

AMK Microfinance Institution is currently working with Women’s World Banking on a project to attract more young women customers than its traditional older, rural customer base.

"As a result of working with Women’s World Banking, AMK is looking more closely at identifying the strongest use cases to attract new women customers and ensure that barriers women face in using formal financial services are identified, and steps taken to provide an improved customer journey for women,” said Kea Borann, CEO of AMK Microfinance Institution.

He said he further hoped that women can gain more confidence in using financial services through greater access to AMK’s products and services.

The event also aimed to leverage findings from Women’s World Banking’s advisory solutions and research in Cambodia to support evidence-based policy making.

HE Rath Sovannorak (left) and HE Koung Sorita attend the event. PHOTO SUPPLIED

HE Rath Sovannorak, assistant governor and director-general of banking supervision at the National Bank of Cambodia, delivered important remarks on how women’s financial inclusion can build pathways towards economic empowerment.

He shared an overview of the National Bank of Cambodia’s efforts and initiatives to increase financial inclusion and financial literacy in the Kingdom, especially for women.

HE Koung Sorita, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, shared the importance of using a gender lens when designing Cambodia’s financial inclusion strategies for women.

The event featured a panel discussion on “Best Practices in Making Women’s Financial Inclusion a Pathway to Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cambodia”, with Sabine Joukes, chief of party and country director of PACT, joining Rajan and Borann as distinguished panellists.

The panel concluded that applying a gender lens when designing financial products and services, as well as government policies, can increase opportunities for financial service providers to reach women customers, which will lead to national economic development and increase financial services revenues.