Juggling between multiple roles every single day, be it ensuring daily meals for the family or running a business, women are undoubtedly the backbone of any society. Countries around the world including India are stressing on women empowerment as they have realised that it is difficult to fathom an equal world without empowering women with equal social and economic opportunities. Indian government has also acknowledged the women contribution to the economy, and has come up with various initiatives to empower women socially and financially. One such initiative to empower women is to provide accessibility to the formal financial services & promote self-reliance in rural areas.
There exists a huge gender gap when it comes to accessibility to digital financial services. If we talk about internet population in India, there is this digital gender divide where only 35% of India’s internet user are women. If we talk about rural areas, male internet users are more than double the female internet users (Ref- IAMAI report on internet users in India, by Nielsen). There are policies laid out by govt. focusing on improving access to internet services by upgrading broadband infrastructure and bringing down the costs to individual users in rural areas. However, such technical solutions will be inadequate to address the social & cultural roots of gender divide in India.
During our field visits and on ground implementation in various villages, we discovered that most of the women we met don’t even own a cell phone. In rural areas, mobile phones are generally owned and controlled by men, and if a phone is under a woman’s control, she would know very less about when and how to use it for other services. Majority of women owning a smart phone do not know how to operate it. Their smart phone usage is mostly limited to pressing the green button when the phone rings. Thus, it is rightful to say that digital divide is not simply a question of access to digital technologies but about the capacity to make meaningful use of this access.
Digital literacy along with financial literacy has significant impact on rural women’s economic empowerment. As it is clear from the fact that when a woman has access to financial services within the convenience of her home, she can definitely gain more agency in her life.
Digital financial services — including mobile wallets, debit and credit cards etc. can help a business grow far more efficiently than brick-and-mortar branches and can result in fees that are as much as 90 percent lower than those associated with cash-based transactions. Digital financial services have the potential to address women’s preferences in new and different ways than traditional financial services. The power of financial inclusion could be seen by taking the examples from around the world- In Niger, evidence from the social cash transfer program demonstrates that the greater privacy and control of mobile transfers compared to manual cash transfers shifts intra-household decision-making in favour of women. In Kenya, the arrival of mobile money transfers increased women’s economic empowerment in rural areas, by making it easier to request remittances from their husbands who migrated to urban areas for work. Thus digital revolution has brought new opportunities for female empowerment in rural areas.
It is a known fact that poverty impacts women the most in these rural areas. We also know that when women have the power to make, spend, save, and control their own money, they make gains not only for themselves but also for their communities. An economically empowered women is a boon to society and country at large. So it becomes necessary to focus on the inclusion of women in rural areas and come up with a solution that can be applied on a larger scale and help women lacking access to formal financial services.
PaySe solution developed by Nucleus Software Exports Limited, is a financial inclusion enabler which provides women with easy access to financial services and digitize the complete loan disbursement and collection process in rural areas in offline mode i.e. without any internet connectivity. With PaySe, these women can do transactions sitting at home and they don’t even need any smartphone for this.
In many family structures, women are the designated caregiver & determiners of household resources. PaySe facilitating the reach to these financial services and providing easy accessibility has enabled these women to focus on things that matter- like family responsibilities and other important work. They don’t need to walk long distances to pay a bill or take a bus and invest many hours to reach the nearest bank. PaySe saves both cost & time for these women.
PaySe has catalysed the empowerment process for women by providing them with new opportunities and also encouraging them to become entrepreneurs. And with easy accessibility to financial services, they can begin small businesses, which eventually helps in raising their social status & leads to the generation of livelihood. It has been seen that when it comes to developing rural women, they display strong determination and an ability to be progressive.