Karandaaz Launches 2nd Round of Financial Inclusion for Women Challenge

Karandaaz Pakistan, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has launched the second round of its annual challenge titled ‘Karandaaz Financial Inclusion for Women Challenge’.

Under this challenge, Karandaaz is inviting applications to support ideas that create financial products specifically directed at women consumers and improve overall financial inclusion for women in Pakistan.

The proposed ideas may be technological solutions that can result in a large number of women using formal financial services or women-centric financial products and channels for credit, savings, insurance, investments, etc. with an adoption strategy and addressing a specific need of a segment of women.

Successful applicants will be awarded mentoring support and a grant of up to PKR 15 million per winner in order to pilot, test, and scale their promising ideas.

Socio-economic empowerment and financial inclusion for women through formal channels are critical for the sustainable development of any economy. Under this challenge, Karandaaz has been supporting ideas of financial products and services that are gender-friendly and women-centric.

The ideas can be from financial service providers, including the digital financial service sector, financial institutions, microfinance institutions, microfinance banks, research and advisory firms, and other relevant market players.

In Pakistan, women, in particular, lack the basic understanding and access when it comes to adoption of financial services due to various factors such as restricted mobility, non-availability of required documentation, less conducive utility of available options for women vs men, and poor accessibility due to low phone ownership and their marginalization in technology adoption, etc.

Ali Sarfraz, CEO Karandaaz Pakistan, said, “As the world economies emerge out of the shadows of the pandemic, I think it is time for a wider discussion on gender and finance. There is credible evidence that an economy where women have a substantial financial status, are economically empowered, and are better equipped to deal with unforeseen challenges, households, businesses, farms, communities, and whole economies perform significantly better.”

“Women must have agency over their finances and the ability to make decisions related to saving, investing, and spending of their own and their household’s income. According to the last Findex data collected by The World Bank in 2017, women’s financial inclusion is alarmingly low at just 7% in Pakistan. Even if the situation has improved since, we have a long way to go and we hope that this challenge from Karandaaz and all our efforts combined will help the country improve this important indicator,” he added.

Rehan Akhtar, Chief Digital Officer at Karandaaz Pakistan, said, “I believe that if we put enough focus on any problem, we can come up with a sustainable solution. Karandaaz Digital is committed to attack the problem of the gender gap in financial inclusion and solve it.”

“That is why we funded two great companies focused on women’s financial inclusion last year. Building on the success and response from the market, we are pleased to launch the second round of the Karandaaz Financial Inclusion of Women Challenge.  We are anticipating that we will receive groundbreaking approaches to reduce the gender gap.”

Last year under the same challenge Karandaaz provided grants to 2 FinTechs: Oraan Tech Pvt. Ltd. and Techlets Pvt. Ltd and NRSP Microfinance Bank in another category.

Speaking about the significance of Karandaaz support, Halima Iqbal, CEO Oraan Tech, said, “We are glad that with Karandaaz support we have been able to initiate our mission of expanding financial access in the country, with a particular focus on boosting financial inclusion for women.”

“Karandaaz’s support has helped us accelerate and widen our efforts to promote savings and financial literacy among women and we would encourage all innovators in the digital financial services realm to take full advantage of this opportunity,” she added.

Karandaaz Pakistan is accepting applications from interested entities until November 08, 2020. More information about the challenge can be found at

Karandaaz Pakistan is supporting small and medium entrepreneurs by increasing access to finance for unbanked populations by leveraging digital technologies, developing and disseminating evidence-based insights, and encouraging innovation in financial space.

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