There are almost and innumerable number of ways to divide a population. Ironically, these divisors then become ways to unite that same population. The broadest divisor is probably gender. And this group is large and growing. What needs to grow with it, is the bouquet of services that are genuinely targeting this group. And, to genuinely target this group, there needs to be deep rooted inclusion of this group right from the stage when the idea is born. Ideally, the idea needs to be born keeping in mind the needs of this group. And companies know this, and they try to do what they can. The ones that are finding it the hardest are probably banking and financial services providers.
World over, there are specific financial products that target women. Savings bank account, insurance policies, credit cards – you name it and they all have women centric products. But not all are a success or have the range or depth of customers that they intend. The reason is that financial planning and inclusion is a societal issue, and like most deep-rooted issues, women need to get up and get involved in the inclusion process.
But we need to understand financial inclusion first. It is about fearlessly interacting with your financial services provider yourself and informing them of any gaps that you experience. For this, you must be involved and ask the questions. You must be aware of the variety of reasons why you do not like to deal with financial products. Because those are the ways in which new products and options will be created.
For example, if you have an add-on card, the norm is that all alerts go to the primary card owner. That means those small private purchases you make, are not private. It also means you do not know when the card is reaching its limit. This could result in a person opting to use cash rather than a card – not a desirable outcome for the bank since they want as much money to be routed electronically as possible. However, what if, you went to your credit card company and requested that your number be the number for the alert or at least one of the numbers? You would be better involved in budgeting yourself and you would probably use less cash. It could be a perfect solution resulting in more women using credit cards.
Financial products have a way of liberating you, and only when you taste that liberation, do you realise what was missing. So, whether its your fifty dinars or five hundred, whether it’s your money saved each month, gifted to you by someone or earned by you – it’s still your money and you should be able to interact with it purposefully.
As women and mothers, we are setting the stage for the next generation. We are the ones who need to be less accepting of the status quo and to ask all the obvious questions. We are the ones who must start to gather knowledge about our financial past, present and future. The only way is to evaluate and find out what is not ok. We are often so accustomed to compromise, that questioning does not come to mind.
So, in the month of International Women’s Day, and Mother’s Day, I say we pledge to fuel that twinge in the belly when something irks you. Every time you feel dependent for something, question it. Every time you feel small and answerable, ask if something can be done about it. Participate.
This article was originally published in Bahrain Woman This Month's March 2019 issue.