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Women’s economic empowerment priority and necessity

Jul 16,2016 - Last updated at Jul 16,2016

A study conducted by the Association of Banks in Jordan about the role banks and financial institutions play in the economic empowerment of women, focusing on the Jordanian case, came to address a problem long overlooked by the Arab world: weak economic participation of women and absence of proper policies that encourage their participation in the labour market, which is one of the lowest ratios in the world.

The study recommended the adoption of a clearly defined roadmap to increase the economic empowerment of women and the percentage of economic participation, reforming policies and relevant legislation, and removing the obstacles and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, promoting financial inclusion and adopting supportive economic policies for women, not only in Jordan but also in all Arab countries.

The study shows the size and presence of women in the banking system and financial institutions, which reflects the ability of women to work, both for the benefit of others, as employees or agents, or to their own advantage. 

The study found that there is a decrease in the level of representation of women in management and command centres in the Middle Eastern and North African countries, and the presence of many obstacles facing women in the region and adversely affecting the employment opportunities available to them.

It showed that small and medium businesses owned by women represent only 14 per cent of the total number of companies in the region and suffer from relatively large financing gaps.

In Jordan, the study showed that women that own deposits account for 33.6 per cent, or one-third of the number of depositors in banks operating in Jordan, while women borrowers form 19 per cent of the total number of borrowers; women holding credit cards account for 22 per cent of the total customers holding credit cards issued by banks operating in Jordan.

It also showed that the percentages of women with banking transactions in Jordan are good compared to the proportion of women working in the Kingdom in general.

Indeed, Jordanian women are in a much better situation compared to most Arab countries, even rich ones. However, the study believes that Jordan can improve women’s economic participation and increase the proportion of women provided that suitable childcare policies and suitable working conditions, especially for women who have children, are in place.

Adopting flexible or fewer working hours and allowing women to accomplish some work at home to help them carry out family and work responsibilities could improve the percentage of women participating in the labour market.

The study also provided the following recommendations: produce an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs, based on equality between genders; support and strengthen the capacity of institutions working in the field of women development and gender equality, and developing tools and support services provided to women projects; create special policies designed to support companies owned by women, to include providing customised training programmes for women, and to provide support to emerging and existing enterprises owned by women; hold educational and awareness workshops to increase women’s awareness of banking services and available products; introduce the rules and working mechanisms of microfinance institutions to women.

International experience can be utilised in order to economically empower women.

The prominent experiences of the Gramin Bank in Bangladesh, the National Bank of Costa Rica, the Lebanese Bank of Commerce, Garanti Bank in Turkey and the Royal Bank of Canada, as well as other similar banks, should be studied carefully.

I believe Jordan can make a positive difference and benefit from supporting women’s programmes, such as Women’s Lending Fund, the Development and Employment Fund, and a number of programmes aimed at empowering women.

This study is the beginning of the diagnosis.

 

The writer is director general of the Association of Banks in Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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