Worldwide, over 800 million people are still living in poverty, on less than US$1.25 a day. Many people in developing economies lack of access to adequate food, clean drinking water and sanitation. The sad part is that more women are likely to continue living in poverty than men due to unequal access to paid work, education and assets. As productivity gaps between women and men lingers especially in agriculture and entrepreneurship, empowering women in these two areas are crucial to development.
When you empower a woman, you empower a nation because children are well-cared for, and there is hope for the future. Financial empowerment of women is crucial in making this a reality.
An estimated two billion adults are still without access to a bank account and more of this population are women. Among the population of adults with access to bank account a significant number women are less likely to have credit records than men. Even when they successfully overcome the hurdle to access bank accounts; more women do not have access to financial services such as loans and overdrafts. They find it more difficult to obtain loans because they have lower asset bases on which to draw for collateral. There are also cultural and religious stigmas and restrictions on women especially in developing economies. For example, in some cultures even though a woman has a bank account, the account is indirectly controlled by her male relatives.
Can digital financial services empower women in their vulnerable financial positions in developing economies? Are there other options to access credit at reasonable cost for small businesses without a bank account? Can Blockchain link a small business to buyers across the world? There are interesting possibilities for financial inclusion and Bitcoin. The potentials are already unfolding – of how Bitcoin is financially empowering women all over the world.
An Afghanistan small business woman, a victim of domestic violence – whose husband frequently hit and took all her money – was able to save her Bitcoins and got a lawyer to get her a divorce. In addition to enabling women to privately manage their own finances, the blockchain technologies also offer other benefits to their businesses. Benefits such as – lower transaction fees compared to credit cards and the ability to use it in cross-border transactions.
In Zimbabwe, Bitcoin is improving the lives of women farmers through a Bitcoin start-up, BitMari. The organisation grants loans to rural women farmers to raise crops, poultry and improve on farming methods. Another start-up BitPesa a digital platform which offers payments to, from, and within Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo has partnered with Bitbond to improve access to financing for SMEs in Africa.