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Cash Is a Pillar of Gender Equality

Categories : Cash contributes to education, Cash generates security, Cash is a public good, Cash is available to all users, Cash is the first step of financial inclusion, Cash protects privacy and anonymity
March 8, 2023
Tags : Civil Liberties, Financial inclusion, Gender parity, International Women's Day
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we look back at the essential role of cash in promoting gender equality.
Guillaume Lepecq

Chair, CashEssentials

This post is also available in: Spanish

Banknotes and Coins Need to Reflect More Gender Diversity

Source: Visual Capitalist

Women Are the First Victims of Financial Exclusion

Women are the first to suffer from financial exclusion. According to World Bank data, 74% of women own an account with a financial institution (2021) compared to 78% of men. Seventy-five economies still limit women’s rights to manage assets, says Nayda Almodóvar-Reteguis, Gender Legal Expert at the World Bank.

Women are more dependent on cash at hand. According to the 2021 Global Findex report, “women and the poor are more likely than men and richer individuals to successfully raise emergency money, and more likely to rely on friends and family—an unreliable source.”

Cash Protects the Civil Liberties of Women

The 2016 demonetization in India illustrates how financial hardship is gendered, as women bore the massively disproportionate brunt of its effects. In India, 83% of men and 77% of women have a bank account. But patriarchal norms suggest that finances should be handled exclusively by men. Many women save money in cash, often without anyone else knowing about it. It buys them food for their children and medicines when they fall ill. This is a safety net that was lost when the demonetization occurred.

In 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court removed the constitutional right to abortion, state prosecutors could subpoena banks’ and fintechs’ payment data to use as criminal evidence.

“In the states where abortion has been or will soon be banned, any pregnancy loss past an early cutoff can now potentially be investigated as a crbanks’earchfintechs’s, browsing histories, text messages, location data, payment data, information from period-tracking apps—prosecutors can examine all of it if they believe that the loss of a pregnancy may have been deliberate. Even if prosecutors fail to prove that an abortion took place, those who are investigated will be punished by the process, liable for whatever might be found,” wrote  Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker.

Cash Is a Lifeline for Victims of Domestic Abuse

For women who are victims of domestic abuse, cash provides a safety net, as it allows them to disclose savings from abusive husbands or family members. Lisa King, Director of Communications at Refuge, U.K.’s leading charity providing services to survivors of domestic violence and abuse, said:

“Having lack of access to cash is one of the ways in which women are financially controlled… it prevents a woman from leaving her perpetrator. It prevents her from being able to make choices she can because she hasn’t got access to funds… Cash is an essential kind of lifeline for women and children.”

In India, the 2016 demonetization increased domestic violence when men realized their wives were saving money without their knowledge. The One Stop Crisis Centre in Bhopal observed a sudden spike in instances of domestic violence over the next few weeks following the November 8 decision.

Most domestic violence survivors experience economic abuse, financial stress, and hardship and are at risk of increased unemployment and homelessness. Harm-doers leave survivors with little to no income, no access to cash or bank accounts, fraudulent or coerced debt in their name, and damaged financial profiles.

While cash assistance can help survivors build the stability they require, cash is most important for an individual to leave unhealthy relationships. A survivor should have an escape bag with clothes, cash, checkbooks, credit and debit cards, essential medications, and copies of important documents. If possible, survivors should also keep a cash stash somewhere safe.

This post is also available in: Spanish