How Collectives Can Enable Digital Financial Inclusion for Women

How Collectives Can Enable Digital Financial Inclusion for Women – The future of financial agency for women in a post-COVID-19 environment

– By Aarti Mohan, Angad Bagai and Samridhi Puri

A gendered perspective to the barriers in accessing financial agency

Financial inclusion is the first step to enable access and participation of individuals in the financial sector. In the time of a global pandemic when the economy is suffering set-back, the need for financial inclusion has become increasingly glaring .

Women have struggled with financial inclusion even in the pre COVID-19 environment. 43% of women have dormant bank accounts and 23% of women in India have no bank accounts . Their access and agency to attain financial literacy is restricted by a variety of reasons specific to their socio-cultural circumstances and/or geography. In addition, the post COVID-19 environment has only created a new array of challenges for women to tackle, especially with respect to social infrastructure, which has largely become digitally driven, be it telehealth or online education.

Some of the barriers that increase this burden were discussed at a session hosted by Sattva Consulting at Charcha 2020, organised by The/Nudge Foundation on ‘building financial agency for women in a post-COVID-19 environment’. The panellists discussed issues with financial inclusion through digital platforms which begin right at the root of lack of access to resources, whether smartphones or internet connections.

A move to digital platforms does not preclude collective models like Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Joint Liability Groups (JLGs). Instead, it provides food for thought on how one can leverage collectives, a proven model for delivery in a pre-COVID environment, to be the driver of financial inclusion for women in the new digitally dominant world. There is demonstrated value in collectives – for relationship building, business opportunities, advice, solidarity and networking, all of which can be leveraged into creating enabling environments for women to become financially secure.

Given the many demonstrated values of SHG and JLGs, it would be beneficial for the many stakeholders such as the government, CSOs, and private players like ed-tech and financial tech-platforms to invest in the collectives’ model and add them to the fabric of solution building for digital financial inclusion of women.

Read more in this piece on how the ecosystem can once again – post COVID – leverage the demonstrated value of collectives to build a sustainable model for financial inclusion.


Aarti heads the Research, Advisory and Programmes practices at Sattva, which informs better decision-making, programmatic design and action in the sector. Aarti brings over 12+ years of experience spanning consulting, research, content creation and strategic advisory at Sattva. Aarti has led several the creation of several flagship research engagements and led ecosystem engagement efforts bringing together philanthropists, foundations, and non-profits, across sectors.

She leads multiple engagements with foundations and the government to maximise impact, including the strategic advisory and long-term research engagements with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. She has also spoken and curated discussions at leading national and international conferences. Aarti has a degree in computer engineering from BITS, Pilani and is an alumnus of the Management Programme for Women Entrepreneurs (MPWE) at IIM-Bangalore.

Angad Bagai is part of Sattva’s Research Advisory team and is based out of Delhi. At Sattva, Angad has worked on an engagement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Gender Equality vertical, working to establish a Gender Secretariat for strategic research, advisory and knowledge management support for the Gates Foundation.

Samridhi Puri is an Associate Consultant with Sattva’s Research Advisory team based out of Gurugram. At Sattva, Samridhi has worked on multiple projects with wide-ranging subjects such as gender, human rights, human trafficking, philanthropy and natural resource management.

Sattva has been working with various corporates, non-profits and social organisations to help them define their social impact goals. Our focus is to solve critical problems and find scalable solutions. We assist organisations in formulating their long-term social impact strategy by strategically aligning with business to provide meaningful solutions to social issues.

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