Over the past years,women have been unfortunately and disproportionately burdened by work and poverty, bearing the main share of the burden with limited decision-making powers, excluded from the political, economic, and social power structures.
When did women get the right to inherit property and open bank accounts? when did they the have the freedom to access credit or capital without consent from their husbands?These are the sad harsh reality questions that comes in our minds when we talk about The African woman and money matters.Well,let me take you down the memory lane of struggle lest we take the financial freedom we enjoy now for granted.
In the 1990s the banking and financial sector in Kenya operated under the archaic Napoleonic law where women, children and lunatics were put in the same category.Women had no contractual rights, yet they played a big role in nation building. They could not even be promoted to managerial positions. Most women those days were clerks, cashiers, sweepers and tea girls.
In 1961, Barclays abolished the marriage bar which meant that women could remain in post, with additional benefits such as maternity leave, albeit unpaid. At this time, it was not standard industry practice to retain women who married. On marriage, women were expected to resign, a system known as the ‘Marriage Bar.’ In reality, many married women did return to work for the Bank, although as temporary staff in minor roles with no benefits or pensions. Indeed, it is notable that the early trail-blazers for women in banking were all unmarried as highlighted on in WIBFs article.
Not only in Africa but in many Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, a woman requires a husband or male family member to co-sign a loan. Other research suggests that in Pakistan, banks require two male guarantors who are not family members before they loan money to women.Similary daughters do not have equal inheritance rights to property from their parents.
And what happens when women cannot save?They are vulnerable to income shocks. If women cannot borrow, they cannot invest in their future. Gender-based financial exclusion means that the developing world operates at massive under-capacity.
Today, the story of the African woman is changing as a number of financial institutions, companies and individual have stayed true in dedication and service to women in Africa;empowering women by increasing their access to financial services, improving their capacity to generate and control income and other key economic resource through training programmes. Remarkably, more of the women in Africa have gradually become financially independent with the ability to manage loans, save and adopt certain financial responsibilities.
We may not have achieved gender equity and mark my words not gender equality but we are surely better off in gratitude to the women before us who struggled for our financial rights. Now we are accessing financial and banking services at the convenience of our mobile phones .Just to add on,a report from the Central Bank of Kenya reveals that women account for 82% of the total savings in Kenya.Further,the statistics disclosed that women account for 58% and 51% of the number and value of transaction.With remarkable strides women call the shots when it comes to saving in Kenya.
The African woman is a key change agent in development not only does she invest in social capital as unraveled in my previous post but also a catalyst towards achieving sustainability.