Sometimes children are the best teachers.
That is the case when it comes to financial services for women in Tanzania. In the capital of Dar es Salam, NMB has been teaching students about why access to banking services matters. And these students, in turn, have been teaching their moms about the power of saving.
In Tanzania, where only 34 percent of women have bank accounts – compared with 45 percent of men – these students are making a difference. Despite a narrowing of the gender financing gap in recent years, helped along by the rise of mobile banking, Tanzanian women continue to face structural, cultural, and regulatory barriers.
In interviews with three of these mothers at the Women's World Banking summit in Tanzania, it was clear the lessons had stuck. None of the women I met had received an education past primary school (Tanzania has only reached parity in primary school enrollment within the past two decades). None had been raised by mothers who had bank accounts. All of them were deeply passionate about what they had learned.
"I wanted to save money for my daughter's future," said Asifa Shabas, whose oldest daughter, age twelve, taught her about bank accounts after she learned about them in school. "Before I was spending without a plan. Now I am planning and it is about saving money."
Other mothers agreed.
"I am a single parent and I want to save for my child's education," said Salma Mohamed. She, too, was encouraged to open a bank account by her oldest daughter, now thirteen. "Saving money helps me send my kids to school, helps me to get medicine."
Mohamed says she only was able to go as far as primary school. For her daughter, she dreams of bigger.
“I want her to be a professional, a teacher or a doctor,” Mohamed says. “I missed my chance at education and now I want my daughter to go to school.”
None of the mothers I interviewed had a banking account before their daughters came home telling them about the program. They were intimidated by the idea of entering a posh lobby and talking to bank tellers. They also imagined that banks were only for people who could deposit hundreds of dollars at a time. Indeed, a World Bank analysis found that, worldwide, 57 percent of women without a bank account cited not having enough money as a barrier to opening an account.
"I thought banks were for rich people, not for poor. Then my daughter insisted we should open an account," said Mariam Senge, the mother of two daughters, including a twelve-year-old in the program.
She remembers the first time she entered a bank.
"I wasn't confident at the beginning because I thought I was slowing down people who had more money," Senge said. "I was feeling so shy since it was my first time in a bank."
Since that first visit, she has gotten used to making her deposits.
"I have been able to manage money because when the money is at the bank I cannot spend it on things that aren't a priority," Senge said. "Little by little, I feel it will help us in the future."