Publication Date: 01/09/2014

In South Africa, the month of August is dedicated to celebrate women’s strength, determination and achievements, and to remind people that the struggle for women’s freedom, justice and equality continues all over the world. To help celebrate women’s month, The Banking Association is focused on the financial livelihood of women.

On average women earn less and live longer in retirement than their male counterparts. Therefore, women need to start saving and taking responsibility for their financial future as early as possible. Matriarchal households, whether through choice, divorce or death constitute a large portion of the South African population. This situation requires special attention to promote Financial Literacy and independence of women in South Africa.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, VISA Inc. Financial Literacy and Education Summit 2013 panellist, Adina Chelminsky, commented, “To be financially literate you don’t need to understand what is a compound interest rate, you just need to understand that you need to save some part of what you’re making… It’s just about common sense and judgment”.

However, this gap in understanding causes women to mismanage their money, and in most instances are unable to pass good money habits onto their children. The result is families get stuck in a cycle of debt and poverty. It is easy to break free of the cycle with a better understanding of how and where women spend their money.

In South Africa like most of Sub-Sahara, “There are cultural areas that stand in the way of women exercising not only their financial know-how but also access to the basics of the financial and capital markets, including banking,” points out Linah Mohohlo, Governor to the Bank of Botswana. Mohohlo says that woman in particular suffer from a gap in access to banking and saving products when compared to their Western counterparts.

Intel’s ground-breaking ‘Women and the Web’ global Report highlights the Digital Gap as another issue that affects developing countries in general and females more specifically. The report indicates that there are 25% fewer women and girls online than boys and men across the developing world, and this digital gender gap increases to over 40% in Sub-Sahara Africa. A number of initiatives have been launched across South Africa to help address these and other issues facing women’s Financial Literacy and Financial Inclusion.

The Teach Children to Save South Africa (TCTS SA™) Campaign launched by The Banking Association in 2008, supported by the Department of Basic Education and integrated into the Economic Management Sciences Curriculum, aims to instil a culture of saving in South Africa’s youth. Although not specifically targeted at female learners, TCTS SA™ teaches children from an early age about the reasons to save, budgeting, differentiating between needs and wants, where to save, safe and secure savings, entrepreneurship, financial dignity, basic investment concepts and the wealth cycle. This early start hopes to inform learners and set values for the appreciation and management of money in an attempt to curb habits that can lead to young people not achieving their financial goals.

Another initiative is SaveAct, a South African not-for-profit organisation, which aims to empower impoverished and vulnerable women to attain a financially secure livelihood. As voiced in interviews, women in the programme have experienced the positive effects of collective savings schemes and good money management skills have on their families. The scheme empowers its members to save for basics like food, to purchase homes and even paying dowry. A Nkumane resident said, “Last year I was able to pay dowry for my son …I got three of my other children involved with SaveAct”. www.SaveAct.org.za

Learning about money management is not difficult, provided you ask the right questions from someone in the know. Sometimes a little advice can go a very long way.

The Banking Association’s member banks have financial advisors who offer free advice to customers. Women are encouraged to speak to a financial adviser about various savings and investment avenues available to ensure they have an economically bright future!