Women’s Empowerment: Moving Beyond Access to Finance


KIT Royal Tropical Institute developed a study on approaches to financial inclusion that enable women to overcome gender barriers. 

Moving beyond access to finance

Access to financial products and services is believed to be a key enabler of women’s economic empowerment. But access to finance alone is not transformative. Gender barriers still constrain women from making positive changes in their everyday lives.

Financial products and services do little to challenge the underlying norms and structures that hold women back – at home, in business, and in their broader societies and economies. How then do we move beyond access to a more transformative approach to financial inclusion that will help women overcome gender barriers?

What is a gender-transformative approach to financial inclusion?

It focuses on increasing access to appropriate financial services for women, while also challenging gender inequalities in power relations, social and cultural norms, and regulatory frameworks. Besides empowering women with better choices and resources, it aims to make positive changes in the relationships between people and financial institutions. It also aims to improve relationships within households, support networks, markets, and communities.

It could mean, for example, increasing a woman’s ability to negotiate with traders and bankers, allowing for mutual trust and understanding to emerge. Or, it could mean a shift in a husband’s attitude to bring about a more equal sharing of domestic finances and decision-making.

Read the report

The report analyses the role of financial inclusion in empowerment and social justice. It was co-authored by FMO’s Saskia Vossenberg, Senior Advisor & Researcher on Gender, Financial Inclusion and Women’s Entrepreneurship.

The report explores the following questions:

  • What evidence is available on how financial inclusion affects the capabilities of women entrepreneurs to improve their livelihoods? And how does it affect their ability to transform institutions that undermine shared control of resources?
  • What are promising financial sector innovations that have gender-transformative potential and improve the lives of women?