The webinar intends to look into the influences of discriminatory socio-cultural norms as a driver of women's financial exclusion. The webinar, paired with The Business Standard as media partners, will also emphasize norm-aware approaches that seek to create alternative channels with the engagement of a range of individual, community, and institutional actors such as family members, community groups, media, and enterprise support providers for women's financial inclusion, states a press release.
The webinar will be moderated by Tohurul Hasan and the keynote presenter will be Dr. Sayema Haque Bidisha. The panelists include Sarder Akhter Hamed, Dr. Sanzida Akhter, Syed Mahbubur Rahman, and Lila Rashid.
Women, especially rural marginalised women, are considered to be inferior to men because of prevailing gender norms and roles in society in Bangladesh. The disadvantaged position of women inside and outside the household makes them more vulnerable. The patriarchal structure of society does not appreciate the progress, such as earning capacity of women, playing a role in the household decision-making process as well.
Furthermore, socio-cultural norms inhibit women to be involved in outside work so that they are often isolated by doing the household activities in their homes. Social norms, like- engage with male agents, or even own a phone; create barriers in every aspect of daily life, including financial services.
Similarly, cultural norms around what is acceptable for a woman to do, where she can go alone, or with whom she can interact can all serve to limit women's access to formal financial services. The above situation made a large gender gap in financial inclusion in Bangladesh, e.g., 13% gender gap in phone ownership, 14% gender gap in mobile financial service (MFS) account ownership, 29.2% in bank account ownership, and 44.8% in labour participation.
Evidence suggested that women lag behind men in access to financial services due to traditional social norms, lack of control over decision making, and financial literacy as well. The adverse impact of social norms stifling progress in woman's financial inclusion. Social norms are the informal rules that shapes how people behave and how people expect others to behave. It also manifests in differences in women's and men's roles and expectations for responsibilities in households, communities, markets, and public life. There are some common social norms and beliefs that prevail all over the world including Bangladesh:
Women are primarily viewed as caregivers hence are confined to the home which also limits the scope of financial products they can access.
Beliefs that women are not as financially savvy as men and must rely on their husbands/male relatives to make financial decisions and must therefore use joint bank accounts or their husband's account. For example, opening an account requires approval from a male guardian.
Women are not expected to run businesses because doing so interferes with their primary responsibility of managing the household and looking after the family.
Women cannot work in certain environments such as restaurants, or in jobs which are typically held by men, and therefore have limited options for earning and saving money outside the house, which in turn makes it difficult for them to use formal financial services.
Hence, norm transformative interventions are necessary to increase women's access to economic opportunities. Additionally, the Government of Bangladesh has committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, with a specific focus on women's financial inclusion as part of a broader commitment to women's empowerment in economic opportunity and other domains.