Digitizing rural value chains in India: An assessment of high potential opportunities to increase women’s economic empowerment

Women’s empowerment has been the focus of the Indian government with initiatives such as the Support to Training and Employment Programme for women (STEP) and One Stop Centre Schemes aiming to support gender equality in India. Women’s equality and empowerment is covered under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) number five and is integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development. Women’s empowerment through financial inclusion is an important step towards achieving SDG-5 and gender equality as it can accelerate progress towards better financial literacy and poverty reduction among women through the more efficient use of household income and expenditure by increased access to formal financial services.

Digital Financial Services (DFS) can expand the delivery of basic financial services to each segment of society through innovative technologies, such as mobile phone enabled financial solutions, point-of-sale devices, electronic money transfers and digital payment platforms. DFS channels can drastically drive down costs for customers and service providers as well as offer services at greater convenience and scale, opening the door to offer services to underserved populations. Women could be major beneficiaries of DFS as it would give them better access to, and allow them to control the household income. In addition to this, DFS has the potential to enhance their ability to make financial decisions, especially on savings and investments.