Digital Financial Literacy in Malawi

Hey Sister! Show Me the Mobile Money!

Orant received a small grant of $4k from USAID through Strategic Impact Advisors. With this award, we are integrating the digital financial literacy curriculum, Hey Sister! Show Me the Mobile Money! into our women’s economic empowerment programs.

While Malawi is advancing its digital financial services, the adoption rate among women is minimal. The Hey Sister! campaign aims to change that. The campaign goal is to increase women’s access and use of digital financial services like mobile money. Access is the first step to agency.

So far, we’ve trained 21 program facilitators. They have reached about 3,500 people in the Dowa District, 89% of which are women. The Hey Sister! curriculum covers: 

  • Basic mobile money transactions 
  • Loans, savings, insurance, and budgeting 
  • Privacy and scams 
  • Using a smartphone effectively 
  • Tips for entrepreneurs 

To engage participants, our facilitators use a participatory learning approach. In other words, they encourage women to speak out and share their own stories. One such story comes from Esther Mdzukulu.

“I received an anonymous call from someone who claimed that I had won a motorcycle. They asked me to send a sum of 50,000 for transportation,” she explains. For people who don’t know how to spot a scam, traps like these are a huge threat. “Fraud is real,” Esther says, “This training session is an eye opener to most of us.”

Trainings have been eye-opening for participants in other ways, too. At Orant’s Timvane Irrigation Club, Selina Samson talks plans for savings. “Our club makes good money each year, but then we keep the money at our houses. As a result, we end up spending it fast,” she says. “But because of Hey Sister, we agreed to make a change in the 2022 farming season. We’ll continue to grow and sell tomatoes, but this time we’ll use Airtel to save the profits. That way, we can see what kind of profit we made. Then we can do something tangible with the money we sweat for.”

While Orant has had successes with the Hey Sister! campaign, we’ve also had challenges. Many rural women don’t have mobile phones. Often, this is because their male partners don’t allow it. Alone,  women can’t always afford mobile devices. 

To overcome this challenge, we’re making our trainings gender inclusive. We hope that, because of the curriculum, men will begin to lovingly support the inclusion of their partners, mothers, and sisters in family finances. Both men and women in rural Malawi need an understanding of digital financial literacy. And both can help spread the knowledge to their friends and family.

In the words of Melinda Gates, “the old financial system was built to exclude.” But now, digital financial services offer new opportunities. We can build a system that empowers everyone. A system that includes the poor. Includes women. And includes rural communities.

The Orant Journal