Gender Equality: Insights on Financial Literacy and Economic Empowerment


This article was published at “Child & Youth Finance International”:

In their actions the Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team (The Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team is an initiative spearheaded by Restless Development, the British Youth Council, ActionAid and Plan UK) advocate for the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on governance, and the participation of young people in governance and accountability. The Governance team has also called for integration of gender equality concerns, and inclusion of young women in decision-making, this through global and national advocacy and campaigning actions in different countries. They highlighted youth priorities, with a special focus on governance & accountability, in the post-2015 development agenda by taking part and speaking at different high level meetings and global discussions in the United Nations among other international bodies.

Gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals

The draft outcome document “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, will be officially adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, which will be held in New York from 25-27 September 2015.

This is the first development agenda that has been negotiated and agreed by all Member States and which is applicable to all for the next 15 years.

The new sustainable development goals aim to complete what the MDGS did not achieve, through addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality and the sustainable development that works for all. The new agenda addresses an action plan for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. It highlights the necessity of fostering peaceful, inclusive societies and calls for the participation of all countries, stakeholders and youth. The determined agenda pursues to end poverty by 2030 and endorse shared economic prosperity, social development and environmental protection. This new agenda that is founded on 17 goals, including a goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as well as gender sensitive targets in other goals.

Assuring and protecting economic empowerment on an equal basis for both men and women has been acknowledged as a human right and as a concern for policymakers. Along with the strap line of United Nations in order to achieve the Millennium Development goals, women’s empowerment is seen as a prerequisite.

The importance of economic empowerment for women and girls

A number of studies and researches over the past years have highlighted that gender equality is a smart economic tool. It has been determined that the unexploited potential of women is a lost opportunity for economic progress and development. Women’s economic participation promotes agricultural productivity, enterprise expansion at the micro and macro, small and medium enterprise levels, in addition to improving business management and returns on investments.

Yet, awareness of gender differences in financial literacy and of their significant implications has endured quite low albeit policy makers now perceive financial literacy as an essential for sustainable development, and financial education has become a vital policy priority.

According to the OECD/INFE financial literacy survey, women have lower financial knowledge than men in a great number of developed and developing countries. Women tend to be less-educated and possess low-income and most of them lack financial knowledge. The survey shows that women are less confident than men in their financial skills, they are less over-confident in financial matters, and are more averse to financial risk.

When it comes to financial behavior, women seem to be better than men at keeping trail of their finances, but they face more struggles in making ends meet and choosing financial products fittingly.

Regardless of its importance, recent initiatives to measure “financial literacy” recommend that levels of financial literacy understanding are low. This typical situation limits the objective understanding of financial issues and leads to subjective interpretation.

Due the external environment challenges, it becomes a necessity for individuals to enhance their financial understanding, to make appropriate financial decisions so to reach positive outcomes. Such challenges include the decline of public welfare policies, increased life expectation and health care costs; the development of complex financial markets; and effects of the global financial crisis. Whereas the need for financial literacy is largely acknowledged as vital, though the importance of equal gender dimension stays a subject for debate. Such gender differences represent fundamental problems for social equity, with several consequences on sustainable development of countries.

Countries tend to display loss of economic potential when one half of their population is disoriented, particularly in societies where a great percentage of production takes place in informal enterprises run by women. Low levels of female financial literacy and confidence have a negative impact on their participation in the economy.

The conceptual framework that individuals face may differ according to inherent characteristics among populations of women and men that affect their chances to obtain financial literacy. These characteristics may be different: (age; personality traits; environmental constraints). Women and men experience different cultural norms, which limit where, when and how they best learn about personal finance. Studying these factors is important as they may have impact on founding relevant policy responses: effective financial education interventions necessitate addressing different root causes.

Understanding the gender causes of financial literacy in countries requires effective policy design policy, analytical and comparative reports and research highlighting good practices and detailed case studies on financial education and literacy across national and regional levels. Policy makers need to emphasize standards, principles and guidelines as well practical tools to enable and improve strategic financial education.

Investing in women promotes financial literacy and economic growth

Besides boosting economic growth, I believe investing in women has multiplier effects; women plow a large portion of their income in their families and communities. They play crucial role in creating peaceful and stable societies which are important factors for economic growth. Regrettably, even these benefits have been universally recognized and have therefore not translated into women’s full economic participation in different countries, especially in developing countries, where women still face obstacles when establishing new businesses or even increasing existing ones. Among the biggest obstacles are discriminatory laws, regulations and business conditions, with women’s lack of access to property rights, finance, training, technology, markets, mentors, and networks. According to “Women Finance Hub”: 71 countries prevent women from working in some industries. 16 countries don’t let married women get jobs without their husband’s permission, 44% countries don’t let women work at night. We can only imagine one of the reasons behind the lack of economic development of the world when half of the population is discriminated from full participation in the economic level.

Although there has been current focus on developing women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries, this spotlight has been on growth-oriented women’s businesses. Women’s entrepreneurship in micro and small business that are often measured as informal, regardless of these concentrated efforts of poverty reduction initiatives through increased access to skills training and micro-credit, still have not been able to reach the growth potential among women.

I have been working with women in different countries in Africa and Middle East, and I have noticed that the role of women in national economies is more emphasized in recent years by ensuring gender equality and women empowerment among individuals. But the fact is that women have less access to resources, education and health facilities in most of the developing countries, where women are half the workforce. Greater participation of women in economic activities is the major concern of most of the countries, which is considered as one of the best tools to achieve and attain a sustain development.

Governments need to show more financial aid to support efforts to increase women’s access to quality financial services; there is an urge need to highlight women’s crucial role in advancing agricultural development and food security, and encourage policy and programmatic support for female farmers and agricultural businesses owned by women, and reform the policy to facilitating the processes for women in this field.

More support to NGOs, industry associations, and corporations advocating for policy and programmatic solutions that would enable women’s economic participation, also enhance more technology access and providing access to mobile phones, internet, and other vital technologies along with addressing cultural, financial, educational barriers.

Provide capacity building, trainings, and mentoring programs to women and girls and equip them with market information, entrepreneurship opportunities, and the necessary skills to attain economic independence; and encourage best practices to increase women’s leadership in the sector of business and entrepreneurship.

Government states especially in developing countries need to find a solution to one of the biggest obstacles which is data collection; endorse the collection and configuration of gender data in the economic sector to create evidence-based policy and programs aimed at increasing women’s economic participation across all sectors. Governments need to provide their youth with space to hold their leaders accountable and that’s by ensuring youth participation in data collection and arrange for youth to express their innovative analyses that form the basis for recommendations to policymakers, help them make decisions and promote policies best suited to ending global economic inequalities and to generating people-centered sustainable development.


Journey experience in advocacy


Inclusive development means we work towards all young people having the opportunity to enjoy health and wellbeing, to profit from education and training, to pursue rewarding careers, and to benefit from civic and political empowerment. All the way from Zambia, Lombe has chosen advocating and lobbying to support youth understanding. She believes that everyone should be decision contributor, she believe in “right of participation”

More than 3 billion people are under 25; sustainable development cannot be fully achieved without youth angles, perspectives and mainly voices.

The qualities of youth provide us with supreme power to accept change, challenge norms, and adapt to challenging new settings.

From Zambia, Lombe Tembo, Task Team Member of Restless Development Organization organization. Sana caught up with Lombe for a brief chat, ahead of her work with Restless Development Organization.

Sana: First, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Let me congratulate you on being a model advocating for youth governance. Out of the many Africans, you have been chosen by “Youth Voice” as successful model I believe it’s because of a proven record of hard work in enhancing youth governance. Can you share a brief background of the work you do?

Lombe: Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak about my experiences and share what I have learnt. I am a youth advocate based in Zambia. All of my time at the moment is dedicated to development work in a voluntary capacity. Among other roles that I take on, I am the assistant executive director of the Zambian Association of Literacy, and I am also the Chairperson of the Governance and Transparency Committee of the African Youth Movement. My role as a member of the Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team began in May 2014 when the task team members had an initial meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka during which we shared our individual experiences and learning.

Sana: Can you tell us about your experience with Restless Development Organization? How did this experience enhance your expertise in the field of advocacy and accountability?

Lombe: My experience with Restless Development has been nothing short of phenomenal. Of course there have been moments of miscommunication, which is only normal in dealing with other human beings with different opinions and feelings. The support staff has been very amazing and has shown so much support right from the inception of the Task Team

Sana: Can you share any of your advocacy activities?

Lombe: I will share one of my most recent advocacy opportunities. In May 2015, I gave a speech on behalf of the Task Team as a member of the Major Group for Children and Youth at the United Nations Interactive Civil Society Hearings. This involved highlighting the priorities for young people in the Declaration, which is a lead up to the summit in September at which the Sustainable Development Goals will officially be launched. The roundtable discussion that I was a part addressed how the Declaration of the outcome document can in a clear and visionary way articulate the objectives and priorities of the new agenda and its implementation.

The link of Lombe’s speech:

Sana: In your point of view and basing on your experiences, what are the challenges facing youth advocate in African countries? Have your ever faced any difficulties advocating for youth with official government in your country?

Lombe: From my point of view, young advocates still face the challenge of not being taken seriously when they are in their own countries. They receive recognition when they are speaking on a global or regional platform but things get more difficult when they try to bring these advocacy messages back home and attempt to contextualize them. Furthermore, another challenge that is faced by young advocates is a lack of federated efforts to make their voices heard. There are instances in which there are wonderful actions happening in very small groups. If there is more coordination and communication between these groups, there would be a much larger impact. So lack of information as well as lack of access to this information is another challenge faced.

Sana: What role can activism play in youth development and what can youth learn from being involved in activism?

Lombe: Activism has the all-important role of bridging the gap between young people and decision-makers. With the wonderful support of civil society organizations, such as the ones supporting the Task Team, young people can have increased confidence and skills and can play a more active role in development at all levels.

Sana: In one sentence, what is your message for youth worldwide who want to shift the development of their countries?

Lombe: “Development is not something that is a far-fetched idea to only be discussed by adults. Be a part of the solution, it begins with you as an individual”.

Youth Policies Analyst for Restless Development Organization


Selected as one of the ten top most active youth to work on Global Accountability and Governance as Task Team Member for Restless Development Organization (UK) , working on the field of Governance and Accountability by empowering the youth , women and children participation in the political level through recommendations documents of the Post-2015 development to the United Nations.

Check the first section( Partners for Change: Young people and Governance in a Post-Agenda 2015)

Meet the Task Team Members of Restless Development Organization