In 2005-06 only 15.1 per cent of Indian women had a bank or saving account that they themselves used. In 2016-17 the number of women using their bank accounts themselves went up to 53 per cent and now as per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) – 2019-21 about 78.6 per cent of women in India have a bank or saving account which they operate themselves and not male members in the family. 

The financial inclusion of women could be connected to the other empowerment parameters in the survey where women are prioritising their own needs and taking part in household decision making. 

According to the World Bank, financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs—transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance— delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.

Banking, decision making 

The government initiated the National Mission for Financial Inclusion (NMFI), namely, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) in August 2014 to provide universal banking services for every unbanked household.

As per the government data, nearly 45 crore PMJDY accounts, which were opened in the last 7 years, currently have deposits of ₹1.57 lakh crore (as of January 26, 2022). About 55 per cent of these account holders are women. The average deposit in an account has also gone up from ₹1,065 per account in March 2015 to ₹3,449 by March 2021.

The NFHS–5 shows that financial inclusion might have bolstered the participation of women in household decision-making. Currently, about 88.8 per cent women usually participate in household decisions about health care for themselves, making major household purchases, and visits to her family or relatives. In 2015-16 the percentage of women involved in this decision-making was 84 per cent from the 76.5 per cent in 2005-06. 

Ownership, health priorities 

In 2015-16, about 38.4 per cent of women-owned houses and/or land (alone or jointly with others). The NFHS–5 data shows that today 43.3 per cent of women have a house and/or land. 

In 2015-16, only 57.6 per cent of women used hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual period. As per the NFHS- 5 about 77.3 per cent of women now use hygienic methods. Interestingly, only 48.2 per cent of rural women used hygienic methods in 2015-16 the percentage today is 72.3 per cent. This is a major indicator of how rural women are taking their own decisions, say women in Lasina village in Yavatmal. Earlier women depended on men for money even as they worked hard in the fields, today they handle their own money, say women in this village. 

The number of women having mobile phones that they themselves use has also gone up from 45.9 per cent in 2015-16 to 54 per cent in 2019-21. 

In 2005-06, about 37 per cent women experienced spousal violence, while in 2019-21, the number reduced to about 29.3 per cent.         

Controlling their own lives  

RBI’s National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) states that with greater control over their financial lives, women can help themselves and their families to come out of poverty; reduce their risk of falling into poverty; eliminate their exploitation from the informal sector, and increase their ability to fully engage in measurable and productive economic activities.