At least 200 countries and territories have expanded or introduced social protection measures in response to COVID-19, reaching almost 1 billion new beneficiaries since March. Many are leveraging mobile money platforms to distribute emergency cash assistance to poor households safely and rapidly. Yet, low-income women who live in remote areas with limited connectivity, or who have low digital literacy, are less likely to access these benefits. Putting women at the center of digital G2P payment programs can help countries to mitigate exclusion risks and maximize the impact on women and girls.

The World Bank recently partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Women’s World Banking, CGAP, and Stanford University to publish a brief explaining why women are at a heightened risk of exclusion during the rapid scaling and digitization of cash transfers and proposing policy options to maximize women’s inclusion.

The brief highlights five barriers to address: gender gaps in financial access, ID ownership, mobile phone ownership, inadequate recognition of gender gaps, and insufficient gender data and analysis. The persistent gap in women’s financial access is exacerbated by discriminatory practices, lack of trust in banking institutions, and high costs. Moreover, women face a combination of legal, economic, and social restrictions that contribute to a gender gap in ID coverage. Cash transfer programs that fail to identify gender gaps will exclude women in need. Insufficient sex-disaggregated data, including in information systems, create a partial understanding of gender disparities. Digital G2P programs should be informed by gender analysis that gives a comprehensive view of women’s roles, responsibilities, and needs.

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