Why and how is mobile money ACTUALLY narrowing the gender gap?

Susan Johnson on the Next Billion Blog shares initial analysis from her team of researchers from the University of Bath and University of Antwerp (with support from FSD Kenya) on a financial diaries dataset drawn from five locations across Kenya: “Evidence shows the complex gendered dynamics of finance and its networked characteristics. It is not yet possible to tell a simple story from these findings, but they tell us that in order to understand mobile money adoption, we need to recognise and understand these dynamics – and to move beyond the conventional axioms regarding gendered constraints to financial access.”

Citing research studies by Olga Morawczynski & Sibel Kusimba , Johnson states, "Sibel Kusimba’s detailed ethnographic analysis of the social networks around mobile money among the Bukusu in western Kenya gives us further insight. Doing well means successfully accessing extended family resources and these networks are mostly based in flows within sibling, mother and cousin relationships. Kusimba shows that women – especially mothers – are central to these networks. The contributions from men more often come from brothers and mothers’ brothers than fathers; that is, maternal kin. This is not to say that ties through patrilineal kin are not also important and institutionalized – but it is to point out that women are critical lynchpins to many of these networks.

As Kusimba puts it (page 273), 'In a context of rapid social change … the hearthhold based around a woman, her relatives and her children is becoming a basis for lifelong bonds of support.” These exchanges of funds also serve to confirm the strength of relationships, transmitting affection and strengthening emotional ties (see also Johnson and Krijtenburg, 2014). Moreover, since 33 percent of households in Kenya are de jure female headed, mobilising resources for their own children through these ties to male kin is vital to their survival. Even small gifts enable investment in this woman-centric “hearthhold” over time without “disrupting widely shared ideals of patrilineal solidarity and household autonomy,' she says."

"Hearthholds of mobile money in western Kenya" is now available for free download at Economic Anthropology until October 20, 2017.

Read the full blogpost on Next Billion.


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