Islamic Finance Institutions Need to Engineer More Gender-Supportive Products - Iram Zaidi


Friday, February 19, 2021 / 1:00PM / Bukola Akinyele-Yisau for WebTV / Header Image Credit: Halal Angels Network

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Islamic Finance Institutions have been tasked with developing and deploying tailor-made Shariah products and services for women. Mrs. Iram Zaidi, a development consultant, communication specialist and women's rights advocate, made this point while discussing "Women Entrepreneurship and Economic Development".


Speaking on the role of women in driving entrepreneurship and economic development, she said women have a critical role to play when it comes to developing global economies. 


According to Zaidi, women empowerment entails poverty alleviation particularly in developing countries, which includes equitability in the distribution of wealth and resources.


She emphasized the need to deepen the conversation on gender inclusion in socio-economic activities, which is crucial for any nation that seeks to achieve economic growth and development.



On the Khadijat Initiative and its uniqueness as a female entrepreneurial platforms/network, Zaidi who is a board member, noted that the global initiative which started last year, was designed to support women entrepreneurs through innovation, and spur economic activities through women.


Also, she added that the target was the support of 1,100 women entrepreneurs, through innovative product and services, providing access to world class mentorship, networking opportunities, access to peer-to-peer (P2P) learning, technical trainings in partnership with institutions in the United Kingdom and across the globe.


Citing the global entrepreneurship monitoring report 2018 -2019, she observed that there are 153m women entrepreneurs across the globe. She was optimistic that women entrepreneurship was growing but faced the challenges of sustainability.


The women's right advocate speaking on the challenges of gender inclusion, and unlocking economic opportunities for women, noted that institutional challenges and the inability to access funding, constrained women in their quest for economic empowerment. The development consultant explained that women faced a US1.5trn financing deficit preventing them from either starting or growing their businesses, posing a challenge for them to access critical funds to grow or scale their businesses.

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"In many countries, women do not have the right to own a house because of the laws which is gender-biased, illiteracy is equally a factor in many developing countries that hinders women from starting their businesses while male members of society have better access to education and technology" she said.

Zaidi called for the unlocking of economic opportunities for women.  She believed that bank loans should be made easier for women, and that lending institutions should come up with innovative and tailor-made products for women.


From a policy perspective she called for investments in human capital development, that gives girls and women the opportunity to acquire skills and develop expertise in several fields.


She made a strong case for an improvement of female participation in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).

The development expert also stressed the need for the huge gap in the technology sector to be addressed, to accommodate more women in various segments of the tech ecosystem.

She tasked policymakers and investors to support initiatives like the "Women Incubator Initiative" that would encourage female innovation and creativity.


Zaidi called for the development of more gender-based products and services in the financial services, to address the population of unbanked women in Nigeria and Africa.


"Digital banking should be employed to meet the financial and payment needs of more women, especially those in rural areas. There is a need to make banking services more accessible to women" she said.

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