The 2022 European Microfinance Award Finalists

Banco de las Microfinanzas - Bancamía (Colombia)

Runner up

Year of establishment: 2008

Legal status: Bank

Total number of clients: 1 503 042 / 56% are women

Total number of staff: 3 119 / 48% women

Bancamía is an universal bank, part of Fundación Microfianzas BBVA in Colombia, serving low-income families and microentrepreneurs. It offers a wide range of financial (i.e. credit, insurance, payments and savings) and non-financial services and operates via a network of 221 branches, more than 28,000 banking correspondents and digital channels such as a Virtual Office and a Mobile Banking App.

The strategy

Women empowerment and gender equity are strategic axes for Bancamía which offers several services specifically designed with the needs of women:

  • insurance products for women, including a cancer policy, Bolso Protegido, specialised medical assistance coverage for urban and rural women at very affordable prices (about 1 Euro per month). Mi Maternidad Protegida: entrepreneurial mothers do not have to worry about the payment of their microcredit and or receive economic support during the legal maternity leave (4 months). This product includes related health care services such as medical, psychological and pediatric telephone counseling, nutrition and legal advisers.
  • Non-financial services: the gender prospective was incorporated into the online financial education programme and platform. In partnership with USAID, Bancamía is executing the EMPROPAZ Programme which has trained 77,837 women, to strengthen their businesses.

The bank conducted several studies to understand women clients' characteristics, challenges and aspirations including the outsized impact of Covid-19 on women.

Bancamía shows a strong strategic commitment to gender equity within its organisation:

  • Topics such as diversity management, women leadership and mentoring (for growth of high potential women) are increasingly integrated to its training process
  • Equity and Inclusion Policy and Equity Committee are in pace, as well as Sexual Harassment Policy
  • In 2022, Bancamía held the Equality Week to sensitise employees about the existence of gender gaps (98% of total staff were trained and certified on management of unconscious gender biases)
  • To address the challenge of low women representation in the branch management positions, the bank is planning to implement a Women Leadership Programme linked with a Bancamía Career Plan.

Kashf Foundation (Pakistan)

Runner up

Year of establishment: 1996

Legal status: MFI

Total number of clients: 550 090 / 99,9% are women

Total number of staff: 3 114 / 44% women

Kashf Foundation (Kashf) is a Pakistani foundation with a holistic approach designed to cater exclusively to self-employed women from economically marginalised households with low levels of education, constrained mobility, and limited access to healthcare. The Foundation offers financial services, capacity-building opportunities, social advocacy interventions, and social safety nets through a relatively widespread network of 339 branches across 63 districts. Almost all women clients are located in rural areas (99.8%), and all are reported below the national poverty line (100%).

The strategy

Kashf's approach is across four main areas:

  1. Financial Services: provision of multiple microfinance products differentiated by ticket size, reason for use, and specific sector requirements
  2. Capacity Building: basic financial education training using adult pedagogy are offered (e.g., budgeting, savings, debt management and financial transactions) to clients, including those with limited education. Business Accelerator sessions (e.g., product and income diversification, marketing, in-person visits to markets, market linkages, etc.) and vocational training are held to facilitate women's client linkages, boost economic returns and decision-making confidence
  3. Social Advocacy: interactive social theatre performances serve as a public awareness campaign to break stereotypes and change mindsets (e.g., discouraging child marriages, women's inheritance, importance of savings, covid-prevention strategies, etc.). Kashf has also produced and aired four television series covering various issues women face, including the burden of unpaid care or the promotion of women employment
  4. Safety Nets: family health insurance coverage (in addition to credit life insurance) for clients to enable equitable and timely access to high-quality health care facilities.

All products, services, policies, programmes and initiatives are evaluated and vouched by the Diversity and Inclusion Code before implementation to ensure alignment with clients' needs. The Foundation has a high-touch and doorstep approach where staff receives gender-sensitive training on how to approach clients.

Kashf has a comprehensive gender-responsive training programme with a "leadership pipeline" to promote women in senior roles, interest-free loans to increase women’s mobility (Women-on-Wheels Scooty programme), and extensive maternity support (parental leaves are available for both parents as well as branch-level day cares).
Monitoring of activities is regularly conducted through multiple internal and external research studies.

2022 European Microfinance Award

Financial Inclusion that Works for Women

The 2022 European Microfinance Award highlights organisations working in financial inclusion that aim to understand and meet women’s challenges and aspirations in order to go beyond traditional gender outreach strategies.

The prestigious annual award with €100,000 for the winner and €10,000 for the 2 runners-up, promotes financial inclusion initiatives and serves two parallel goals: rewarding excellence, and collecting and disseminating the most relevant practices for replication by others.