Table of Contents

  • Almost everywhere women entrepreneurs struggle to access finance to start businesses. In some instances this problem is compounded by unequal laws, regulatory barriers or discouraging community practices. While most global institutions advocate banking for the poor, in many regions little has changed in terms of women’s ability to secure loans or finance, especially the larger sums needed to pursue their aspirations for enterprise.

  • One of the main aims of the Ninth Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting (9WAMM), held in Barbados in 2010, was to highlight and explore the links between securing gender equality and economic development. The need to research and document best practices and modalities on gender responsive investment (GRI) was emphasised in order for gender equitable access to finance to become an effective tool for women’s economic empowerment.

  • Discourse around the critical linkages between poverty reduction, growth and financing for development from a gender perspective has been prevalent for decades. Yet, notwithstanding the studies, debates, agreements and measures to stimulate and finance development, progress on gender equitable access to finance remains slow. Global and national finance-related mandates, policies and corresponding programmes and services still reflect significant gender gaps. The policy deficits resulting from the failure to capture women’s and men’s concerns in the regulatory and operational systems guiding the financial sector require closer attention in the aftermath of the 2008–2009 global financial crisis and the current sovereign debt crisis. This chapter examines the gender policy concerns, including gaps and barriers, with a view to increasing the understanding of policy-makers and financial sector operatives on the valuable role inclusive policies can play in encouraging sustainable economic growth.

  • Against the backdrop of what is considered to be the worst financial crisis since the depression of the 1930s there could not be a more apt moment for policy-makers in the Commonwealth to implement measures that support GRI. This chapter examines the role governments play in facilitating GRI as well as the key areas policy-makers might consider focusing on in order to fully maximise the potential of women. It reviews factors within the enabling environment that affect women’s ability to access the financial services that are critical to enterprise development and the stimulation of economic growth.

  • This chapter looks at the role of institutions and the interventions they can implement to improve financial access for women’s enterprise, from training, capacity building and internal restructuring to the types of products and services that can be developed. It reviews the institutional factors related to access to finance for women and the broader elements of enterprise support. The wide range of financial services required by SMEs and individuals is covered, given that non-credit products are an important entry point into the formal financial sector.

  • Commonwealth countries are emerging from the deepest global recession since the 1930s, forcing governments to seek alternative avenues for economic recovery and development. Ignoring or undermining the potential contribution of women can lead to lost GDP growth. Despite being the fastest growing emerging market, women receive a relatively low proportion of credit worldwide. Women entrepreneurs and women farmers worldwide continue to cite the most significant obstacles to business growth as access to finance and land.