Using digital banking to empower rural women entrepreneurs

December 19, 2022
Photo collage: photo 1: women farmer in the field and photo 2: womenusing ebanking and other photo

When the wave of COVID-19 hit Nepal in early 2020, three in every five employees lost their jobs as many of the businesses shut down. Few went digital. Those who did not have skills, resources and capacity go digital were mostly left behind.

It was during the COVID pandemic that Rita Kunwar (35), a farmer in Waling of Syangya District, realized how digital divide could be a cause for disparity.

"Earlier, I did not even believe that financial transaction could be done in a click with a mobile phone,” said Rita. Rita completed her study up to 8th grade and faced challenges using mobile aps as most of the information in the digital technologies are in English. However, after the training, she found it easier to handle money using the mobile banking apps.

“I am using the digital payment platforms and also enjoy training others how to do it,” she said.

Rita was one of the 150 women who received digital literacy trainings which helped her to become self-dependent and economically active.

The 150 women had already received livelihoods recovery support from UNDP’s COVID Response and Socio-Economic Recovery Project launched immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nepal in early 2020. Over the past three years since 2020, the project has supported over 24,000 people (52% women), mostly COVID-affected vulnerable people, with jobs and livelihoods through fruits and vegetable farming, livestock, and other enterprises. The project provided the target population with skills training, tools, technology and required financial support in partnership with local governments and CSOs.

For the digital literacy component targeted to the women, the UNDP project collaborated with Laxmi Bank, class ‘A' commercial bank, to provide skills trainings to some of the most vulnerable people to use QR codes and do digital transactions.

Jyoti Baniya (33), a poultry farm entreprenuer in Putalibajar-4, Syangja, was able to switch to online cash transaction following the digital literacy training she received in 2020. With her husband, the family is now running Thapa Agro Faram, and Jyoti has adapted digital payment system for the company’s transactions. 

“I feel more comfortable as I do not have to handle the cash and which has reduced my burden,” She says.

In Nepal, the digital divide is even more apparent between men and women, where women still lag far behind in terms of digital literacy.  

Deputy Mayor of Waling Municipality, Kabita Tiwari says achieving gender empowerment through digitalization is an new possibility, even in a deeply patriarchal Nepali society where women hardly have any access or control over household level economic matters. Equipping women with digital banking skills has far reaching implications in terms of promoting to gender equality. “We need to scale up such trainings. There are over 10,000 women in my municipality alone who are willing to take this kind of training and benefit from digitalization,” she said. “However, with limited resources, we have not been able to reach out to all. We look forward to support from all quarters.” Given Nepal’s skewed gender data, a great deal remains to be done in terms of empowering women and digital literacy project like this could be a promising solution.


[About the project]

As of 2022, UNDP’s COVID Response and Socio Economic Recovery Project has been implemented in 15 districts and with 29 local governments that co-fund all the projects. Over the past three years, the project has directly benefitted 25,000 households, which in turn have indirectly benefitted over 150,000 people, of which 53% are women. Empowering the women and improving their livelihood was one of the major components of the project. The digital literacy become the part of different activities with the COVID crises. Over 150 women form among these 24,000 households, got digital literacy which helped them become self-dependent and unluck new economic opportunities.