Women face persistent discrimination when they apply for finance for their business or self-employment and are often concentrated in unsafe, insecure and low-wage work.*
Across many countries, women entrepreneurs are more likely to face higher interest rates and have shorter term loans when borrowing money. The Commonwealth has been working to address the critical challenges faced by women in accessing funds, to start and grow their businesses.
As part of its programme, financial services experts from across the Commonwealth will meet in the Indian city of Ahmedabad from 4 to 8 February 2013 to share knowledge and experiences on how to ease women’s access to finance.
The meeting will particularly focus on ways of mobilising women savers and salaried female workers to build sustainable Savings and Credit Organisations (SACOs).
SACOs are member-owned financial co-operatives, similar to a village bank, democratically controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift and providing financial services and credit at competitive rates to its members.
The Commonwealth's theme this year is 'Opportunity through Enterprise' - unlocking potential with innovation and excellence.
Interim director of the Commonwealth Secretariat division in charge of gender, Esther Eghobamien, said: “A huge barrier facing women in accessing funds are financial institutions’ criteria for lending. Lenders such as banks will ask for collateral to secure the loans, which not all women will have.
“SACOs are community institutions through which women can access finance at low or preferential interest rates. These rates are largely achievable because the borrowers are savers within the SACOs.”
Participants at the meeting will include representatives from government ministries and senior officials within SACOs.
They will share information on engaging new clients; providing innovative products, such as microinsurance and micro-pensions, which are specifically designed for people on low incomes; and advocating for policies that improve lending to women.
The meeting is organised by the Secretariat in partnership with Ananya - an Indian financial services provider.
* UN Women