By CHUSA SICHONE -
FIRST Lady Esther Lungu has said the financial inclusion of women and girls will have far-reaching benefits for them and the country as a whole.
Ms Lungu said there was consensus that increased financial inclusion of women and girls significantly contributed to sustainable economic and social growth.
The First Lady said this when she officiated at the launch of the Access Bank Zambia Limited’s Women (W) Banking Initiative in Lusaka on Friday evening.
“Since women constitute over 51 per cent of Zambia’s population, their financial inclusion will be a key determinant in improving not only their lives but the lives of all Zambians.
“I, therefore, urge our Government to ensure that this time around, financial inclusion does not elude women and girls who are the majority of our population because this would be detrimental to the development of our country,” she said.
Ms Lungu observed that economically empowered women were, among other things, able to take care of themselves and their families and not succumb to sexual and physical abuse.
Ms Lungu said that women’s financial exclusion was one of the clearest example of gender inequality in the developing world.
She said that Zambia had seen a rise in the number of women contributing to economic development but they had continued facing numerous challenges in uplifting their living standards.
Ms Lungu cited failure to access banking services owing to cumbersome account opening processes, high interest rate charges on credit facilities, high ledger monthly fees on their accounts and high collateral requirements for credit facilities as some of the major obstacles.
She was happy that Access Bank’s W Initiative brought hope of bridging any gaps the country faced regarding women’s financial inclusion, adding that the bank would set the pace for other players in the industry to take deliberate steps focusing on females.
“I am informed that the Women Banking Initiative simply called W is one of its kind in Zambia and I am heartened by initiatives that focus on women, and my desire is to see that these initiatives are replicated throughout the financial industry and integrated in the broader gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda for this country,” she said
Access Bank Zambia, she said, was proving to be a strong partner with the Government to uplift women’s standards and she looked forward to working with the bank on women and girl’s economic empowerment programmes.
The First Lady commended the Government for participating in shaping issues affecting women and girls in the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda and its participation in regional and international forums in support of women empowerment.
She said Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the Global Sustainable Development Goals would benefit Zambia depending on how the Zambian Government carried out the implementation process.
Access Bank Zambia managing director Tunde Balogun said the institution felt it was time to take deliberate steps to change the financial inequality against women through inclusive banking to provide them with access to finances, education and market potential.
Access Bank PLC Nigeria Inclusive Banking Group head Ope-Wemi-Jones said the W Initiative was launched in Nigeria on July 11 last year and the programme was introduced as the bank held women in high esteem and wanted to understand how they wanted to be served.