Banks still marginalising women farmers, study says

Post was last updated: June 4, 2018

A report by the United Nations (UN) Women indicates that rural women farmers and entrepreneurs continue to face challenges to access loans.

This is despite Malawi having several legislative and policy interventions that foster women inclusion in banking.

The study indicates that, although most women in Malawi engage in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the main challenge remains inability to access credit.

United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women commissioned the study to highlight barriers to accessing finance among women entrepreneurs.

Titled ‘Rural Women Farmers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Access to Credit: A Gender Analysis of Macro and Micro Finance Institutions Policies and Procedures’, the study also exposes challenges that hinder women from accessing capital from financial institutions.

UN Women Country Representative, Clara Anyangwe, told stakeholders at a dissemination and advocacy meeting in Lilongwe on Thursday that women in Malawi face severe constraints of inequalities and discrimination.

She said this hinders them from growing their businesses.

“This challenge stems from the fact that financial programmes are designed with the male head of household as the intended client and fail to recognise that women are active, productive and engaged economic agents with their own financial needs and constraints,” Anyangwe said.

She said low literacy levels among women entrepreneurs and girls is another challenge negatively affecting women’s participation in decision-making processes.

In an interview on the sidelines of the meeting, New Finance Bank (NFB) Chief Commercial Officer, Bernard Mkandawire, admitted that, although macro lending policies and procedures foster women’s access to credit, some financial institutions continue to marginalise women and girls.

He, however, said NFB is developing policies and products to benefit women entrepreneurs.

“I can assure you that, very soon, this problem will be over. We, as banks, are equally concerned with the situation and are working towards addressing the inequalities,” he said.

Controller of Extension and Technical Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Alexander Bulirani, described the study findings as a wake-up call.

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