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Remarks by Princess Zahra interview at State Bank of Pakistan Event - Banking on Equality 2020-12-20

Sunday, 2020, December 20
State Bank of Pakistan Gender Equality Webinar held December 20, 2020

Princess Zahra - Zoom Interview/ remarks
December 21, 20201

PRINCESS ZAHRA AGA KHAN attended Monday 21st December 2020 on the State Bank of Pakistan Gender Equality Webinar.

Princess Zahra was interviewed by the moderator Dr. Amita Zaidi - President of Gender Equality, Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation

Thank you very much Anita and thank you Dr. Reza Baqir and Deputy Governor Sima Kamil for inviting me to be present at this opening of a very, very important initiative from the State Bank of Pakistan. Gender equality and access to banking services and financial services around the world is essential for women, of course, as is access to all types of services.

In the Aga Khan Development Network we have always tracked on an annual basis, women’s participation in all different fields and themes from health and education to employment and access to industry, access to finance and so on and so forth.

We are very proud that for the last fifty years in Pakistan we have been managing more than a 150 co-educational and girls’ schools at all levels of education from kindergarten to higher secondary schools and have trained thousands of women in the health services from lady health visitors to community-care nurses, midwives and doctors.

Women’s access to education and to financial services is essential going forward because ultimately women are the cornerstone of the family and the family’s management of its resources.

We have over half of about 48,000 students in Pakistan are girls and it is extremely important that the women are educated in order to access financial services.

In this pandemic year, women have really led their families’ efforts to protect themselves from Covid-19 and are the cornerstone of how the family responds to these things.

The launch of this State Bank of Pakistan’s gender-equality framework is extremely encouraging as women require banking services and access to capital and finance. Also women need to be able to access careers in banking and finance in general. It’s critical that women have access to this sector and have access to financial products and I again thank you so much for inviting me to be part of this panel today.

Thank you

(further comments by Princess Zahra during the discussions)
In my experience, women do a lot of the work in our society, but they are not often recognized in a formal setting and don’t have a formal relationship with the banking and financial finance sector. Also until now, and hopefully this is changing, but there are a very few female role models, present company excepted, and many role models in Pakistan, but women are under-represented in senior roles within organizations, banking being one of them, although today’s panel obviously belies that.

When a woman does reach a level of authority within an organization, which ever level that organization is at, she will face a struggle, she will face a double-edged sword, of playing the female role and yet being pigeonholed to a certain extent because she is a woman.

And therefore I think we need more and more women to be recognized as the State Bank of Pakistan has obviously promoting today, so that they can be role models and mentors , and sources of inspiration for women in the next generations.

But, I also would like to second what Ciyela Ceyla just said , which is that technology is allowing us to break these boundaries and will allow us, women and men, and rural populations and isolated populations - to access the services that have been until now , very difficult to access. And I recognize all the Banks and Institutions who are allowing this to happen for the populations and the women around the world and in Pakistan.

Q. Thank you, thank you for that. What are the role model organizations and what is it that they are doing that makes them different from their peers?

A. Thank you, I see organizations all over the world that are using, again, technology and access to mobile technology to allow women to access finances and services that they didn’t access before. While, the fact they don’t have to travel physically to an institution or to a bank branch or whatever kind of service provider – one would need to access as a woman, is making a huge difference, in my view to the way that women are able to access all services in our world, and when you are using a mobile phone or a mobile device, it doesn’t matter whether you are a woman or a man, it makes no difference – you are a customer and you are accessing a service.

I see that in so many different sectors of society and the economy, and I believe that when you give a woman, a sort- of distance and - quite an anonymous access to these services, be it in the health sector, we see this with mobile health and diagnosis, or banking, women just take the lead and they access the services that they access, and they learn the terms, the terminology required to access services for their families, for their children, for their households – and

I believe this is a massive step forward in our world for women.

And recognizing the institutions like State Bank of Pakistan that are facilitating this for women – I think we are facing a C change /SEA CHANGE for see change today.

Q: wonderful, thank you .– …..community and empowerment and us, - Add missing words - how can that change life for women, keeping also now the Covid tragedy in mind?
A. That is a very, very broad question. I think it depends on how you choose to see it. In Pakistan for many decades now, we have had experience with a number of community type organizations, village organizations, women swomen’s’ organizations, and depending on how they are structured and set up, they give a lot of strength and power to the communities be it women’s communities, or mixed gender communities.

I believe it’s something that gives strength – and I think -micro finance – the history of micro finance, over the years – the birth of micro-finance- I believe in the 50’s – has shown that the strength of the community organization , makes the strength of the savings, and banking organization itself and therefore it’s something that is critical, also communities tend to educate each other, they tend to spread knowledge, and spread information, as we’ve seen with Covid. The measures that prevent infection, and measures that keep families safe are also spread by community information and power.

Therefore, communities are essential ownership of any kind of resource, be it a health-centre or a micro-finance program or savings organization, is really anchored in the community’s attachment and the feeling of ownership in whichever program that they are participating; in. [sentence continues here, no new paragraphe!!!

Yyou know it is something they themselves have created and therefore I do believe, I think this is what you asked me that the community is central in building any form of resilience, any form of resources for themselves. And we potentially, NGOs and other institutions, international institutions, banks can provide advice and technology – but the community is essential in everything that revolves around development in all sectors including in banking and finance.

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