Picture of the Change we Want to See in Africa’s Gender Equality Movement.
I visited Gwagwalada market to harvest my own data on financial inclusion. Out of a hundred women my team and I approached, we discovered that:50% have dormant bank accounts which they stopped using or use once in a blue moon, they save their money in women's groups or what normally they call group meeting; 30% don't have any bank account at all, they are either discouraged by other women's experiences or have started opening an account but stopped due to bank protocols; 20% have functional accounts but are not pleased with the financial services they receive.
Having collected this data, I started from the grassroots to create awareness on the need for women to open bank accounts. We identified those that had the appropriate documents but couldn't do the paperwork. I took some of them to the banks of their choice to do the paper work for them, one by one, day by day. I have never encountered work so stressful!
The woman in the picture, sells Okra in the market, and from the small gains she makes from her small business from which her family feeds, she spent N2000 getting documents and affidavit to change her old account details which was blocked so that she could activate it and start using it to receive and send money to her Okra suppliers so that they could be supplying her directly instead of her wasting transport going to buy from them. Meanwhile, she left her business to get all the documents for almost one week. Having gotten all the documents, the bank pitilessly still requested her to write series of letters and applications before they could change her bank details. She needed assistance, but they couldn't help her. In anger she left the bank, Sky Bank.Imagine what pains she and her family have been passing through because of this, she practically spends her profit on transportation to buy her market to sell.When she recounted her story, I became restless, I never slept well until the day I took her to the bank and got back her account, by simply writing a letter, a 2 minutes letter.While I was there, another woman was crying for help, begging the bankers to activate her account so that she could buy fish to sell before evening. Her account was blocked, but an old customer of hers mistakenly paid money into it. They bank asked her to bring affidavit. I took her to High court immediately to get it. We got it, but the bank rejected it because her name was wrongly written. We went back to the court and got the second one. Then they started the activation process. In the middle of the struggle, when I was thinking that we have won, they requested for her means of identification. She doesn't have anyone in Abuja. They are all in Kogi state. I pushed and kicked, no way. It's the instruction from CBN and there is nothing we can do about it, they said.That's how the woman cried out her eyes. I have never been so provoked!
There are thousands of women that go through these harrowing experiences every day trying to open bank accounts. While India is begging women to open bank accounts, we are barricading women from opening a bank account. It’s not just a matter of helping 10 to 100 women get back their accounts, though that’s important too, but what about others?
We need a change in policy, a policy that would allow rural women to open a bank account without much stress or protocol, perhaps with only there name, address, occupation and thumb print.It begins with you.I will share my petition with you to sign, to demand financial justice for women who are left behind in the digital society. No woman is unbankable! do your best to help as many women as possible to open a bank account.
Chizurum Michael Anabaraonye