Banking the Unbanked Rural Women of Papua New Guinea

Video | 18 March 2019


In Papua New Guinea, about 85% of the population live in rural areas. A large proportion have very limited school education and low literacy and numeracy rates. Most people, especially rural women in the informal sector, have also never banked with a financial institution.

Lizette Ambang, a member of Binz Ice Ambra Association, a women's organizaton in Jiwaka Province, shares the story of women in her village and how learning basic financial knowledge is improving their lives.

The Asian Development Bank is increasing access to financial services in remote and rural areas in Papua New Guinea through its Microfinance Expansion Project. The project is implemented with financial institution partners and co-financed by the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

It is strengthening industry regulation and the capacity of lenders to deliver a wider range of financial services and products in rural areas, with a focus on lending to micro and small enterprises, and especially to women. The project is also supporting a large-scale financial literacy training program. 


Highlands Region, Papua New Guinea—"We live long distance to go to town, to Mt. Hagen. Many times, when we go to Mt. Hagen there were rascal businesses, people come and stop us and get all the things we own.

We are the mothers who keep their money in their bilums (handmade string bag in Papua New Guinea). And when it is necessary, we take the money out of our bilums. Most of the time when we have community obligation, we don’t save," shares Lizette Ambang, member of Binz Ice Ambra Association, Jiwaka Province.

About 85% of Papua New Guinea’s population live in rural areas. Most people have low literacy and no access to banking services.

But the Asian Development Bank's Microfinance Expansion Project is helping increase access to financial services. MiBank is one of the project's many partners.

"MiBank facilitators came here and gave us training on how to budget money, how to spend it. In order to save money, there’s a MiBank agent here that we manage. We are also providing mobile banking. Every lady here, they don’t know how to read the mobile. They come here, we show them how to do it. 

One big thing is they see in the mobile that money is coming back to them. We can transfer money with our mobile. Say, I want to buy chicken and see the other association member has got it. So, I just transfer my money to her and I go pick the chicken and come and cook it. So we see that life is easy for us," continues Ambang.

The project is co-financed by the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

"Papua New Guinea has some cultural issues, I would call it in that sense, where women in some of our societies have to defer to men. And we have to adjust to modern ways that say women have as much right as men, women are just as capable as men. 

I think it’s so important that women are given choices in life. It’s important to empower women because they’re Papua New Guineans. They are citizens of this country, that’s the primary thing," states Charles Abel, Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. 

Microfinance Expansion Project is helping women secure financial independence and improve their wellbeing.

"What we have learned from this one and with MiBank here, we want many ladies to enjoy it too, save money and help their family living," hopes Ambang.


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