PAZA – Episode 07

PAZA Podcast E07

Financial Inclusion for Women with Disabilities: a key to economic empowerment and ending economic injustices among women with disabilities.

Recorded September 30, 2020

Full Audio-Text Transcription

(MUSIC) Intro

Click above for Paza! episode 7

Hi, I am Lizzie Kiama, welcome to PAZA! Conversations with women with disabilities globally. PAZA! a Swahili word meaning to amplify is an initiative by This Ability Trust. PAZA! seeks to document and create visibility for the experiences of women and girls with disabilities.

Join our conversations on Twitter @pazapodcast, you can also follow This Ability on Twitter an Instagram @this_ability_ ke and on Facebook

Now, let’s get into today’s topic of discussion.

Lizzie: So the topic of today is Financial Inclusion for Women with Disabilities; a key to economic empowerment and ending economic and injustices among women with disabilities. And on this seventh episode of the PAZA podcast, we are very pleased to be joined by Juliet Muema and Margaret Kimani and I will let them introduce themselves. Juliet, do you mind going first?

Juliet: I am a woman living with disability. I’m visually impaired. And I’m also a business woman. I’ve been in business for the last five years. And I am happy to be a part of this team this morning.

Margaret:  Good morning, everyone. My names are Margaret Kimani. And I take care of women, youth and people living with disability at State Bank of Mauritius, in Kenya we just summarize it as SBM Bank and I’m very pleased to be here.

Lizzie: Great. Thank you both. So according to some statistics we know that, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) speaks about to 15% of the global population being persons with disabilities. And then we also know, statistics show the female global population, 20% of those are made up of women with disabilities. And that women comprise of 75% of all persons with disabilities in low and middle income countries.

So it’s important for us to have these conversations particularly now during COVID, that a lot of business, a lot of engagement relies on technology. And that 65 – 70% are women with disabilities, the fact that they live in rural areas is problematic, because access to technology is not common around these areas. So for us, it’s important to have these conversations and understand what financial inclusion means to women with disabilities. And then also, you know, from the expertise, the banking sector for example what does financial mean?

So, I’ll start with you, Juliet, what does financial inclusion mean to you?

Juliet: Financial inclusion, to me would mean accessibility to financial services, for example, credit when I am in need. And funny should mention it, I don’t think there’s any financial institution in Kenya that has something specifically for women with disability. I think even generally for persons living with disability.

Margaret: So for us, financial inclusion is being accessible, being accessible, our services being accessible, and more importantly, being accessible in all the counties. For certain people with disabilities, for them, for some of them, digital solutions are more important to them. Perhaps maybe not fully. But we find, for example, people with living with physical disability, instead of them coming to our branches, it’s much easier if we could go to them. Others they can just log in and do you know, for the ones who have accessibility. But for us in a nutshell, accessibility means that we are offering financial inclusion, financial services without discrimination. Another thing that I would want to mention is that we are relationship bank.

So for us, we are very humbled and honored that our relationship managers and our relationship officers are not stuck in the office. Of course, we know that COVID has disrupted a lot of movement. But we encourage our staff to actually go to the client.

We do have Express outlets where somebody can be served within a few minutes, and it’s actually closer because they are right on the road.

Lizzie: That sounds amazing. So, in terms of the Express outlets, and you said, you visit customers, are these high end customers? Or how do you categorize the customers you visit? Can anyone request a visit to their place of business?

Margaret: Okay, good question, Lizzie. We have four different sectors. So we as a bank, we have divided the customer segment into three. So we do have the corporate, and then we have SME, Small Medium Enterprise. And then we have the retail customer, you know, Liz and I and Juliet and Maggie and Abdia, all of us are called retail or consumer banking, which I fall under.

So, when it comes to corporate, you’ll understand that most corporates you’ll visit them at their offices, most of the time, or they’ll come to us. And remember, at the end of the day, we do have to respect customers’ preference, some customers don’t like to be visited at home, Within SME the three sectors have told you, we do have broken it to now Centres of Excellence. So, my department is a Centre of Excellence and let me explain what I mean. So, a Centre of Excellence for example, is a centre in the head office that actually takes a deeper dive into the customer needs in that segment.

We do believe that, you know women need to be heard more women need to be economically empowered. And of course it’s starts with banking, accessibility to credit facilities, which I think we’ll be talking about later on.

I’ll tell you for sure, from my banking experience here in Kenya and abroad. I’ll tell you, for sure, Kenya, we are far from inclusion. If I can use that word for politely; Kenya, we are still far from inclusion as a country. And I think Juliet, you can agree.

Juliet: So my experience with one particular bank, which I won’t mention, they said because I’m visually impaired, I’m like a liability.

Margaret: Oh no.

Juliet: It’s a fact. So once I had gotten an order, and then after they (the bankers) gave me the requirements, they’re like, by the way you are partially blind, right? Yes. So they were like utaweza kulipa (will you be able to pay)?

And then later on, to cut the long story short, I didn’t get the credit I needed for that order. So that is the reality in most banks in Kenyan, they believe that persons, women living with disability are a liability. They don’t think that once we get a loan that will be able to repay it.

Margaret: Oh my god. That is so sad, Juliet. I don’t even know the word. If I could call it, I don’t know how they call it in Kenya, its discrimination. It’s straight up discrimination. And I think in other countries, you could even sue for it. I’m not trying to ask you to sue, but it’s actually a human rights denied, you know?

Lizzie: For us, we wanted to have this initial conversation and see how we can work together to increase access. I know, you know, you talk about the different ways that SBM has ensured accessibility. But in terms of disability inclusion, there might be some tweaking that needs to happen, so that you’re catering fully to this population.

So really, this was just to an introductory conversation for you as a representative of SBM, to hear from experiences of women in business, like Juliet, who has experience with accessing AGPO, for example, so I’m sure Juliet can also talk about her specific challenges around AGPO and I’m sure she would appreciate knowing that there are some key players who pay who engage with their clients in a more professional manner. I have heard of stories of delayed payments, which affects your credit at the bank and you know, the loan that you take.

But also I like the fact that, Margaret, you mentioned you have a small community of Deaf clients and your banking relationship is very personalized. For me, and I think for anyone, when they walk into the bank, as much as the bank has thousands of customers, my relationship with my bank is on an individual basis. So that personalized service is super important. So I’m curious whether your technology takes that into consideration. So for example, if you’re visually impaired, Juliet, what are your needs when it comes to accessing mobile apps?

Juliet: For me, I consider myself a bit fortunate because I have a smartphone. And so that means when once the screen reading software is enabled it can work with all apps, but for someone with totally low vision would want the font either to be bigger, which I think at times you can do it from your phone. So personally, I think with my phone I am able to access most of the apps, and they like the fact that Margaret spoke about the apps and how your bank is moving towards digital accessibility. In all the banks I am in I have to physically visit the bank.

Margaret: They’re not serious, no.

Juliet: I have low vision, not blind, that means I can see to some extent. So when I walk in the bank with my white cane they already have a perception about me; walk into the same bank without the white cane again, the services they’ll give me are again different. I can’t speak on everyone behalf, but it’s a fact that is how the situation is on the ground. So whatever services they peg it on the fact that I have a disability.

Three weeks we walked into a bank, we were opening an account for a disabled group.

So I told the person at the service desk that I’m visually impaired so I’m not able to write and I needed him to help me. And my friend, the one I was with has, he doesn’t have hands.

So, the first lady we saw, sent us to the next person because she was busy. And then the next person said, “hamuwezi tutafuta mtu akusaidie, I’m a bit busy” (can’t you get someone else to assist you).

Margaret: What?

Juliet: Yes, so I stepped back, I went to someone else and requested to speak to the manager. So by the time I am requesting, these guys have already seen me. So I don’t know whether it was true or not, we were told that the manager is not in but we can see I don’t know someone called the Business Development Manager. And as I was approaching his office, the person who led me there, I could see him whispering into his ear, then walked away.

Margaret: You are joking!?

Juliet: Yes, so of course, I really vented and they told them, I need a form to close my company accounts. And that’s when everybody started shaking, and everyone was saying sorry. I feel like when you have a disability, you have to work twice as hard as quote unquote the normal people you know. I’m bringing business, I’m opening an account, my money is not disabled.

Margaret: Exactly. Exactly.

Juliet: And why they saw my account balance they started apologizing and saying that they can open an account, of course, I didn’t even open we didn’t even open the accounts.

Margaret: Why do you have to look at the balance? Do you have to look at my balance and say that I’m Chris Kirubi, to serve me well?

Juliet: I think your bank may be a bit different. This other bank, sorry to say, I’ll give an example, I got another order, I went for credit. Of course, they gave me a lot of hurdles saying your account has not been active and so on. And then they said I have vision problems, will you be able to pay? So of course, we didn’t get loan. Later on we got an individual who financed me to do the business. When we were paid that’s when the bank said the next time they’ll loan me. Honestly? Does my account have to reflect money for you to see my potential?

Margaret: Exactly, and you are the same person, before and now.

Juliet: Yes, I’m the same person. In fact he went to the extent of telling me he could personally finance me, we agree on the interest rate if the banks are still not lending to me. And that is after him seeing the payments coming through.

Now, Margaret, sadly, this is the situation. And for me, I’m what I’m here to talk about. If you listen to stories out there. A lot of people don’t even go to banks for credit, they have individuals who come to you, they give you 100,000 we agree I pay back at 25%. It’s like we have lost hope in banks.

Margaret: I have become like a lobbyist, an advocate. So what happens is that you see, for me, I also have to train branches on inclusion together with our HR we are lobbying for inclusion.

In some places where we are even renting, you’ll find that a branch might not be in a proper location for, you know, for inclusion in terms of accessibility. But the more we lobby, even our administrator, our procurement officers are saying, wow, so the next time when we opening a branch, we have to do this checklist that Maggie is fighting about, you know, if you understand.

I think the more we talk about this thing in terms of tomorrow I can be disabled. Remember, yeah, human beings who have lost their eyesight as adults. I don’t know if you’ve come across those.

Lizzie: Okay, thank you. Thank you ladies.

Lizzie: You’re listening to PAZA Episode 7: Conversations with women and girls with disabilities globally. Today we’re exploring financial inclusion for women with disabilities; a key to economic empowerment and ending economic injustices among women with disabilities.

(MUSIC) Interlude

Partnership Appreciation – UNFPA, Global Fund for Women and ForumCiv

According to World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the global population are persons with disabilities; studies also show that 20% of the female population are women with disabilities. In Kenya, 65 – 70% of persons with disabilities live in rural areas with little to no access to technology and financial inclusion. 

This Ability Trust is grateful for the support provided by UNFPA, Global Fund for Women and ForumCiv in our work on the use of technology to increase access to economic empowerment among women with disabilities across 8 counties.

This message is approved by This Ability Trust.

(END OF MUSIC)  End of Interlude

Lizzie: And welcome back, you’re listening to PAZA: Conversations with women and girls with disabilities globally. This is Episode 7, we are exploring financial inclusion for women with disabilities, a key to economic empowerment and ending economic injustices among women with disabilities.

So welcome back guys.  In an effort to ensure that we also capturing experiences from different parts of Kenya, we have a recording from Kakamega County, and we will now listen to Susan Erinah.

Recording – Susan Erinah from Kakamega County

And it has been a challenge for me accessing capital, because sometimes I get the Local Purchase Order (LPO), I don’t know where to get the money or do the business itself. Even the payments are delayed, mostly I supply to health facilities and the government paying me becomes a challenge.

I do not stay in Kakamega town, I stay in a sub-county called Matungu, where is no bank. I have to go to Mumias. Yes Mumias we have 3 banks but I got discouraged with the Women Enterprises Fund so I thought the bank will take me through the tedious process again.

That time I am desperate, I want the money, I want to do the supplies and even the procurement officer is on your neck, they want the supplies. I got discouraged, I’ve never bothered visiting a bank and asking all those details again.

I cannot go to the mama mboga (local grocery) and tell her to just give me the tomatoes I’ll pay you after one year. Nobody will accept that. You have to have the cash. Now because you will get the money from someone you expecting the government to pay you almost immediately but they delay payment for one year. By the time I’m getting paid I am worked up. You have nothing.

As a woman with a disability even just accessing the bank means I have to go to someone to help me move around; that is another expense. And somebody somewhere in the office just decides to pay me after one year. It’s quite a pity. I’ve heard people say how the banks frustrate people now I got scared.

End of Recording

Lizzie: So to follow up on that, I think since the experience is more or less similar with Juliet’s experience. It would be nice to hear from you, Margaret, what it takes to get a loan from the bank? What would be the requirements? You know, what is the bare minimum an individual should have? And how then can we apply that to the reality of women with disabilities?

Margaret: Short, because requirements can be very long, depending on, different sectors have different needs. So perhaps, I’ll just summarize, you know, just to make sure that we addressed Susan’s question. The first thing I want to say is that for us there, the advantage we have, and I’m not trying to market the bank, it’s a fact, for example, you will find somebody in agribusiness, the requirements will be different from somebody who is supplying. Or even a business that is registered, as opposed to somebody who is operating a business under their personal name. So the requirements are very different. We don’t try to make it so complicated, you know, like cast on stone. We are very flexible and we like considering the relationship aspects.

We like considering hearing customer’s scenario, as opposed to just you know, copy and paste all to be the same, no. When a customer calls we usually establish, if they have a relationship with us. And if they don’t, for lending purposes, we usually prefer that I’m sure most of the customers would have gone through a relationship like that.

Lizzie: When you say relationships, do you mean they have a bank account?

Margaret: Yeah, yeah, because we are mandated. I think you know when terrorism started happening, and people are just moving money from one place to another, that was one of the key requirements, all banks have to even I believe saccos.

But for us, what we do is, for example, let me use an example of Abdia.  So if Abdia walks in the bank, and she needs lending, you know, so we usually just say, give us the previous banking records you do have. And this brings to my point, you know, for any customer, anybody out there hearing me, it’s very important that you keep records.  

Globally a research was done and one of the problems, one of the reasons that was found why most people do not have access to banking, have limited access to banking lending is because of we don’t keep records very well.

But globally, even here in Kenya more so, let me give you an example, if I am running a business, I mean, I have a young child, and my nanny would call some days as they don’t have cooking gas, gas imeisha (gas is finished). So usually, you’ll find that the money I’ve sold in my shop, for example, I’m sending it to her. So really you’ll find that sometimes we are not structured in our record keeping. So it’s very important guys, I cannot overemphasize record keeping is actually one of the things. And I’ll tell you the advantage of working with a bank, and I’m not necessarily talking about SBM bank, I’m not here to market, I’m here to add value. The advantage of working with banks is that you get the cheapest, cheapest lending.

Now, even if you’re receiving that money, let it go through your bank account, because guess what your MPesa statements can also be a record, that would add value to your lending.

Another thing that I want to point out is one is unpaid cheques, where you’ve probably written a check to somebody and it bounced. And this one is like what we call a “red flag”, and it’s global. When you pay somebody make sure that there’s enough money in your account as opposed to that check bouncing. It actually shows negatively on your credit reports, I don’t know Lizzie, if we can have a session where we talk about credit reporting and how to even improve on your bankability.

Lizzie: Can I just jump in before I forget this thought, you mentioned three things that I picked up on in terms of the way forward. You talked about credit reporting, you talked about record keeping, and you talked about general bankability. For me, that’s interesting, because This Ability has developed an eLearning platform, where we are we are providing necessary skills in different areas.

Margaret: Okay

Lizzie: One of the things that we wanted to discuss with SBM, or rather with you as a representative of SBM, is the idea to develop, to partner to develop a course on financial inclusion that we would now offer to the different groups. We work in eight counties, and we have a network of about 500 women with disabilities across these eight counties. So if these are the requirements that banks need for women with disabilities, how can we begin to build those skills among the women with disabilities?

So we think that, you know, our eLearning platforms, and we piloted this in three counties right now in this period of COVID, and uptake has been really good. It would be useful if we could continue this conversation and zone in on those areas that you’re talking about that are necessary for a bank and its consideration to financial inclusion for a woman in a disability. So those area, what does credit reporting mean, from a practical standpoint, what does it take to keep records that the bank would deem feasible, what is bankability in general? So for me, it would be useful, and it was for it to do practical, tailored solution that we offer women with disabilities. Our platform is fully accessible to the different disability types. And right now, we also trying to simplify the language so that we can also include communities of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

And I would just like for us to begin thinking of how else what other ideas we have for the approach around financial inclusion and its practicality. So how can we ensure that this is the norm, and we avoid experiences like Susan’s and Juliet’s, and we ensure economic empowerment is the reality for women with disabilities. So can we maybe spend like five to ten minutes discussing the way forward? And how the banking sector can enhance financial inclusion? And from you Juliet, what would you like to see?

Juliet: Okay, maybe before Margaret answers your question, I have a comment and it’s for banks generally. So when banks are advertising themselves, they have all these goodies, I can call them. Once you’re inside, the tables change.

Margaret: Yeah.

Juliet: So my question to Margaret, and I hope it’s not selfish question. Me being in business means that, at times, my account will not be active every other month. Fine, at least now you’ve educated me, and now I probably know a little bit on how to go about that, but there’s analysis that the bank does. It doesn’t mean every month I’ll have an order and when I’m coming in for credit that’s one of the things you guys look at.

Do you have a mechanism, or is it still the same? That if my account, the analysis comes in that the last six months have not been active, that I now don’t qualify for credit, because this is one of the reasons that we are driven to these loan sharks. You know?

Margaret: Yeah.

Juliet: And funny thing is, they give us money and then the money kicks in the account, then you as the bank sees that you’re able to pay. But before this analysis I am not able to access credit.

Margaret: True, true, true, very good question Juliet and it is so true and I think I can agree with you thoroughly because I also work with all banks and I am in that sector, so it is so true.  

You see for banks to change the regulations, we have to go to Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), which is another window that I don’t even want to discuss here. But they’re our regulator, because they have to make sure that when you, Juliet, bring your million today, they have to make sure that there’s liquidity. I think you’ve heard about it, we have to make sure that or when Lizzie comes to get her money, even though Juliet brought a million, it’s ready and there are not many excuses, you know.

But what we’re doing as a bank, diversity and inclusion, we started the work early this year before Covid, thorough work that I mentioned before; we are working with International Labor Organization, we are even internally working with our HR and our credit department. Remember, I’m not in credit, I am in business, but we are the ones who educate them.

So what we are trying to do right now is, once we have this checklist from different organizations, for example, that women-led organizations, youth-led organizations, now you come in, disability, we have any will be able to build a very strong case that can be presented even to CBK Governor to say no, here, we have to take care of our people living with disability.

Lizzie: And I just wanted to mention, as we are working on policy changes and we’re looking at the bigger picture, you mentioned something around training, you as the Centre of Excellence, you keep training other departments. And you mentioned procurement departments and credit departments, which are the ones that also have a direct engagement or interaction with your clients or affect the extent to which clients will access your services.

I wanted to address the issue of unconscious bias. Sometimes we focus on physical infrastructure, we focus on ensuring there are ramps, there’s railing and all these things. But we forget that as people, we interact with disability in a very negative way. And it’s important when we are addressing diversity and inclusion to also train people to help them unlearn some of the concepts they’ve picked up on since childhood. Because it starts from the home front, how people interact with disability. So it’s for us who are in the know, to provide learning experiences, learning opportunities for people to unlearn some of the biases that they hold dear. It’s very unconscious, people don’t do it on purpose. No one, you know, decides I will wake up today and I will discriminate on individuals with disabilities.

Margaret: True.

Lizzie: But we have learned to associate disability with curses, with poverty or negativity. Those are things we hold dear, you know, as individuals and they show up in invisibility of the rights of people with disabilities, in our policies, it shows up in how we program, it shows up in our service delivery. So it’s important when we are doing our trainings to incorporate a component of helping people unlearn.

Margaret: I love what you’ve said because I could not agree with you more. What you’ve said is so true. Sometimes it’s unconscious bias. And I feel that for us to bring this to the next level, it would be nice if we can have a session with you, to know what are some of the unconscious biases so that slowly, but surely, we start breaking some of this unconscious bias, because it’s a killer, I’ll tell you, it’s the biggest challenge we have.

Because like you said,  some of these disabilities, people associate them, for lack of a better understanding or lack of knowledge,  like the Bible saying, you know, for lack of understanding people associated it with something you didn’t do, something your mother didn’t do, something your father, you know, your family; and it’s actually taken as a negative.

Juliet: No, this was a wonderful session, Margaret, you brought in the human aspect of a bank. And it sounds funny, but for the first time I felt like I’m talking to a human being. And you actually sold me on SBM, maybe. Keep up the good job. It feels good to know that people think about us also. And Lizzie and This Ability, you’re a wonderful team. Thank you again for this opportunity.

Lizzie: Thank you for making time to join us. We appreciate the partnership, both of you.

Juliet: Wonderful.

Margaret: Thank you. If anyone of you wants my contact feel free; we can chat later. Juliet, it’s not about you banking with us. It’s about us as human beings and even linking you with opportunities. So that you are a case study of successful people living with disability.

Juliet: Exactly, exactly. And like Lizzie said, a lot of people also associate disability with poverty. That is why they have that mentality of “will you really pay,” and that’s not the story, it’s not always the same. Thank you very much, Margaret and God bless you. God bless you all.

Margaret: Ahsante.

Lizzie: Okay, have a nice day. Ladies. Thank you.

Margaret: Thank you, thank you.

Lizzie: Bye

(MUSIC) Outro

Lizzie: I am Lizzie Kiama and you’ve been listening to PAZA! Conversations with women and girls with disabilities globally. You can also follow This-Ability of Twitter an Instagram @this_ability_ ke and on Facebook

Join me next month for another stimulating conversation. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter @pazapodcast to continue the conversation on the experiences of women and girls with disabilities. Until next time, stay safe.