In Pakistan, women have historically faced numerous barriers when it comes to accessing financial services. Deep-rooted gender biases, lack of financial literacy, and limited access to banking facilities have perpetuated the cycle of poverty for many.
According to the World Bank’s Global Findex database (2021), only 11% of women aged 18 years and above have an account with a formal financial institution, compared to 20% of men. This disparity highlights the urgent need for gender-inclusive financial services in the country. (Source: World Bank)
In order to address this grave issue, Oraan has emerged as a beacon of hope, breaking these barriers and providing an inclusive platform for women to participate actively in the economy. Committees or ROSCAs (Rotating Savings and Credit Association) have long been a traditional means for communities to save and lend money. These informal groups allow members to pool their resources and take turns receiving a lump sum, ensuring that everyone benefits in a cyclical manner. However, Oraan recognized the limitations of traditional committees and sought to leverage technology to enhance their impact.
By digitizing ROSCAs, Oraan has empowered women to participate in these financial circles remotely, eliminating geographical constraints and time-consuming physical meetings. Then there is the added risk of scams and people running away with your savings, there is little transparency as well. Through a user-friendly mobile application, women can now join committees, contribute, and receive funds with ease. Every member goes through an extensive verification process. This simple yet powerful solution has opened doors to financial opportunities that were once out of reach for countless women.
Financial literacy among women in Pakistan is also relatively low, contributing to their limited engagement with formal financial systems. A study conducted by Karandaaz Pakistan in 2022 revealed that only 15% of women were financially literate, compared to 47% of men. Improving financial education and awareness among women is crucial to enhance their participation in the banking sector. (Source: Karandaaz Pakistan).
Oraan’s commitment to transforming women’s lives extends beyond the digital platform. Recognizing that financial literacy is crucial for sustainable empowerment, Oraan offers its users access to resources and tools to enhance their financial knowledge via content on their social media and also through its private women only facebook group. Various meet and greets and learning sessions are conducted to help women scale up their financial literacy.
“We firmly believe that financial inclusion is not just a goal; it’s a catalyst for socio-economic transformation,” said Halima, Co-founder and CEO of Oraan.
“When a woman goes into a bank, the first question we get asked is ‘why do you even need bank account?,’ especially if you’re a freelancer or micro-entrepreneur or unemployed homemaker,” Iqbal said, adding that women are often asked to provide their husband or a male relative’s information so they can serve as a guarantor. “These kinds of restrictions have hindered women from having the kind of financial mobility that they require to be able to contribute equally to the economic growth of the country.”
Oraan’s innovative approach to digitizing committees has proven to be a game-changer in the realm of financial inclusion in Pakistan with over 100,000 members saving money via committees. By harnessing the power of technology, and by employing something indigenous Oraan has not only democratized access to financial services but has also instilled a sense of confidence and empowerment in women throughout the country.