Promoting gender equality in remittances

Global discussions around remittances often remain gender-blind, ignoring the complex realities of men and women migrants and those who receive their remittances. With half of all migrants being women, the persistent gender gap in financial inclusion, compounded by the influence of adverse social norms, makes remittances a gender equality issue. Evidence shows that remittance patterns are gendered – in the channels, amounts and frequencies of remittances, as well as how and by whom the money is used.

Women may experience specific risks or constraints when sending or receiving remittances. They may have limited control over how, when or to whom they send money. Women migrants may also face barriers to accessing formal remittance channels, as they might be confined to secluded accommodation or workplaces, and sometimes do not possess necessary documents such as ID or proof of residency. Further, banks and other remittance service providers (RSPs) may not recognize low-skilled migrant women as an important customer segment, as they tend to send smaller amounts.

Mainstreaming gender in the UNCDF Migration and Remittances Programme

UNCDF sees the paramount importance of redressing gendered constraints to the access and usage of remittances as a precondition for the successful transition of migrants from informal to formal, digital channels. Thus, a systematic gender mainstreaming strategy is at the heart of the UNCDF Migration and Remittances Programme. Together with a robust learning and research agenda and backed by rigorous measurement of our results, our gender-responsive approach is designed to both empower migrant customers and create business value for service providers.

We mainstream gender across all our activities, including our work on supporting governments, strengthening financial service providers, and financial resilience for migrants, and building awareness and advocacy.

Mainstreaming a gender lens in the Migration and Remittances Programme is not about adding a ‘woman’s component’, nor is it about studying differences in how men and women remit. By ‘mainstreaming gender’, rather than creating a separate workstream or stand-alone activities, we ensure that a gendered approach is reflected in all our efforts. We work to identify the diverse experiences, capabilities and interests of both women and men and ensure that they are reflected in remittance innovation at all levels. Key to this is an understanding of the factors that shape the differences in migrant women’s and men’s remittance behaviours.

Building migrant-centric and gender-smart remittance products, policies, and systems

By mainstreaming a gender lens into the Migration and Remittances Programme, we ensure that our activities and outcomes reflect the experiences of, and are beneficial for, all migrants, regardless of their gender, and to ensure that we build resilience for all migrants equally, rather than perpetuating existing biases that may favour the needs and experiences of one gender at the expense of another.

To build migrant-centric and gender-smart remittance products, policies, and systems:

We promote migrant-centric and gender-smart approaches to remittance innovation

We build the know-how and capacity of the private sector to design, implement, and monitor remittance innovations in a gender-responsive manner. Failure to consider pre-existing gender dimensions increases the risks of formal digital remittance services (unintentionally) remaining biased and excluding women by design. We support RSPs to integrate gendered insights and customer profiles into the design of gender-responsive customer journeys and reconfigure remittances value chains, business models, products, and services through inclusive innovation processes.

We advocate for data-informed decision making in remittances

We support RSPs and regulators to collect and analyse sex-disaggregated remittance transaction and user data to inform decision-making at both the RSP and the country level. We work to ensure that women are equally represented in our programme activities, including inclusive innovation workshops, design-thinking seminars, and policy-making courses. We also promote the increased representation of women in our capacity-building activities specifically and the remittances industry in general.

We conduct gender-smart market and policy analyses

While a statistical breakdown of remittances data by biological sex (sex-disaggregated data) is an important first step, we aim to go further. We conduct gender analyses to understand who is included in or excluded from opportunities for improved well-being, on what grounds (sex, gender identity, age, marital status, migration background, ethnicity, etc.) and why (gender norms, business models, regulations, etc.). We constantly ask – what role does gender play in defining who has access or not, who has a choice and the freedom to use or not, whose needs are being heard and prioritized and whose are not, and who benefits or not, and why?

We promote gender-responsive remittance policies and open digital payment systems

We explore and identify where discriminatory practices against women migrants are embedded and reproduced in policies and regulations. We advocate for policy change to redress gendered constraints faced by men or women migrants and support them on their journeys towards empowerment and resilience. We work to understand the importance of digital cross-border payments as the basis for gender-responsive remittance services. We advocate for lower costs and interoperability, to lower barriers to entry and experimentation and incentivize merchants to join the system.

We invest in migrant customer empowerment, specifically that of women

In UNCDF’s view, an empowered migrant customer has the ability, including the skills and knowledge, and control to make more and better choices on how they remit, what for and to whom. An empowered migrant customer can effectively access and use digital financial services, express their voice, and negotiate with providers to ensure the services meets their needs. Also, an empowered migrant can assert their customer rights, complain, and find recourse when they experience issues using the services provided.

To drive increased and sustained adoption of digital remittances, we build the capacities of regulators and RSPs to invest in enhanced financial literacy, redress mechanisms and ways of listening to what migrant customers, particularly women, want and need.

We collaborate with partners to accelerate gender equality in remittances

Within the Migration and Remittances Programme, the Gender Collaborative (Gender Co-Lab) is a flexible space where we support the team to increase its knowledge, build its capacity to apply a gender lens to its work and improve its ability to champion gender mainstreaming in engagements with the private and public sectors. Through the Gender Co-Lab, the migration and remittances team will build a calendar of activities to support gender mainstreaming, as well as linking team members to external resources and training (such as UN Women’s online course on gender equality and migration).

In the future, the Gender Co-Lab could become a space where we collaborate with dedicated partners with the shared goal of accelerating consensus on the policy, innovation, and research agenda.

To learn more, check out our full strategy for mainstreaming gender in migration and remittances: 
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