moderated #ediscussionday3 #ediscussionday3

Saskia Vossenberg

Good morning/good afternoon everyone and welcome to Day 3 of this e-discussion series!

My name is Saskia Vossenberg, Senior Gender Finance Advisor for FMO (the Dutch Development Bank) and researcher on gender, enterprise development and institutions. I look forward to moderating the next hours. 

Today we’ll talk more about challenges in addressing norms and the way forward. What is the biggest challenge you face in addressing social norms in your work? A way forward could be to promote more gender transformative approaches to financial inclusion.


Some questions to start the discussion.


  • Are you taking on a gender transformative approach? What are the challenges you face?

  • How is this different? What does this mean in practice?

  • What would it take to have more peeps/organisations to take this on?

  • What would it take to move others more towards a gender transformative approach?

FMO has started an R&D initiative in which we are exploring how to apply a gender transformative approach in our financial inclusion work. In a recent research article I developed with IDRC, Mastercard Foundation and KIT, we developed the concept of a gender transformative as a way of doing financial inclusion explicitly directed towards creating gender equal financial systems that enable all entrepreneurs, regardless of their gender, to overcome supply- and demand-side constraints and improve their livelihoods on equal terms. Gender-transformative financial inclusion values and pursues three main outcomes: (1) women’s empowerment; (2) strengthened relationships and improved negotiation dynamics between people at home, in networks, and markets, and between financial institutions and clients; (3) enabling policies and regulatory frameworks and socio-cultural norms.  

Simply said: gender-transformative financial inclusion is about making financial systems ‘women-able’ rather than making women ‘bankable.

If you like to read more about this approach you can access the article via this link:

FMO is exploring what it means to apply this framework in our investment in financial institutions in emerging markets. We are currently partnering with two of our MFI’s on ‘how to go beyond access to finance’, create more impactful financing for their female clients and prospects and what that means for their business operations.  

What I love about our work in this R&D initiative is that it starts with the financial sector, engaging  senior management in a discussion on how we can do things differently and reflect on which actions (like product design, credit scoring, outreach and non-financial service delivery) can be taken to improve the full customer journey and ensure that more women can access and use financing in a way that it matches their needs and ambitions.

This is of course not without challenges! I echo Deena’s comments from yesterday and agree that it is indeed very challenging to get commercial actors to think about women as a legitimate market opportunity and so our key focus is on building the business case. Our challenge here is that we face huge financial data gaps. That is data, that proofs the business case for commercial players over a longer period. Another challenge I experience is that YES partnerships are crucial but not all NGO’s, women’s (business) organisations and other key actors that are needed to build a women- centric approach are open and willing to partner with private sector. There is a lot of mistrust and misunderstanding about different realities (for all the right reasons perhaps). So our second focus is on building linkages and partnerships through dialogue. This takes effort and patience. A third challenge we experience is explaining to financial sector players how a gender transformative differs from ‘offering products to women’. Gender knowledge, awareness and establishing a common language is crucial so we invest in awareness raising.

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