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To you it’s a phone, to her it’s a lifeline

By Opportunity International

17th- 20th October is Financial Inclusion Week, and this year's theme is ‘Inclusive Growth in the Digital Era.'  It is a week to share ideas, research and projects that are using digital tools to reach marginalised or traditionally excluded people. Here, we showcase how Opportunity International uses digital technology, particularly mobile phone banking, to reach more women living in poverty.  It shows how a simple mobile phone can transform lives. 

You probably use your mobile phone to access your bank account, check your balance, transfer money and pay bills every day. These are simple interactions that save you time as well as a trip to the bank. You might not remember life before mobile banking. In fact, you might not even remember life before your mobile, smartphone or basic handset!  It’s become a key part of our lives that most of us will not even give a second thought.

In Ghana, it’s less straightforward.  Depositing or withdrawing money and making payments requires planning for those living in poverty. It’s common for people to travel long distances to a local bank branch, often taking a whole day away from their work or businesses, resulting in lost wages. Transport costs are high and, in the rainy seasons, getting to a bank in a town is impossible as roads become inaccessible.  These challenges mean that people often keep their money in their homes, vulnerable to theft or destruction.  It also prevents them from accessing loans or the support and advice that comes with visiting a bank.

Mobile banking offers a lifeline, allowing people living in poverty to safely manage their finances from their own homes and businesses using a simple handset. 

Mother and daughters using phone

However, women lag significantly behind men in using mobiles phones to access digital banking and financial services.

Supporting women with access to digital financial services can have a huge impact – not only on their own life but also on their family and their wider community.  As a woman gains digital access and skills, she can unlock a wide range of new opportunities.

 It improves:

  • her access to resources and information, as well as provides her with financial independence as she has sole control over her finances;
  • her time and ensures that her money is safe and secure without having to travel, often long distances to the bank;
  • her confidence and participation in household financial decision.

These opportunities help her to grow her income and savings, enabling her to work her way out of poverty.

That’s why we use innovative digital technology to provide financial services to remote communities.  In Ghana, our Digital Finance Services Team and local partner, Sinapi Aba Savings and Loan (SASL), are working to increase women’s access and use of mobile banking through the use of a platform called Sinapi Mobile.  

This has been transformative for our clients.


Ernestina is a 50-year-old widow and owns a small soap making business in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Before using Sinapi Mobile, it was a struggle for Ernestina to travel to the bank to deposit her earnings and she was very nervous about keeping cash at home. Now, she uses Sinapi Mobile to deposit her income, receive payments from her customers and pay her suppliers.  She is also able to quickly and easily send money to her five children who live in other cities.  Ernestina has also developed a regular savings habit through the platform, ensuring that she has funds kept aside for a rainy day.  What’s more, she is encouraging local women to use mobile banking.  She has spread the word to her friends and customers, telling them how to get started with Sinapi Mobile and showing them how to use the platform on their phones!

WATCH the video below and meet Ernestina and other women in her community who are using a simple mobile phone to make a big difference to their lives...

This programme in Ghana has been made possible thanks to funding from the Government of Canada. 

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