State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, says further empowerment of women is to key to enhancing economic growth and development in Jamaica.
“We know that through the ages, women have faced unequal access to financial services and we must ensure that women in Jamaica are empowered and liberated financially,” Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said as she addressed a seminar on banking at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown, Kingston, on March 6.
She said while improvements have been realised, as seen in the 2011 Global Entrepreneurship Report, which featured Jamaica among eight of the 54 economies surveyed with equal participation by men and women in entrepreneurship, many women, particularly entrepreneurs, are still frustrated when dealing with financial service providers.
“While we recognise that not all groups in our society may necessarily have equal access to entrepreneurship or to banking services at all times, we are well aware of the fact that when women do not participate equally in entrepreneurship, we lose out on the value that can be created by this significant section of our population,” she said.
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams also pointed out that when women are prevented from engaging in entrepreneurship, the benefits that can be created in terms of new products, services, additional revenues, and new jobs, are lost.
The State Minister further noted that access to stable, secure and fair financial services is important, not only for women, but for consumers everywhere. She noted that, it is for this reason that the Government fully endorses the draft code of conduct for banking services in Jamaica, developed by the Consumer Affairs Commission and the National Consumers League.
She said its principles include non-discriminatory access to all services; banks displaying service standards at their branches; clearly explained product information; fair contract terms and conditions; and a cooling-off period of 72 hours for all contracts.
The code of conduct also speaks to consumers having the right to know their credit information; banks providing notification of changes to fees and charges; banks recognising the needs of elderly, disabled and pregnant consumers; banks having an internal process for handling disputes with consumers;and process for redress of breaches of the code of conduct by banks.
Mrs. Folkes-Abrahams further welcomed the seminar, which is being held on the eve of International Women’s Day(March 8)and World Consumer Rights Day (March 15) . She noted that the deliberations of “one of the most critical groups in this country, our female entrepreneurs”, will further inform the banking code of conduct.
“I believe it is quite appropriate that we are having this workshop today focusing on the draft banking code and in particular involving our female entrepreneurs and your interactions with the financial services providers,” she told the gathering.
Acting Operations Specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Gregory Dunbar also welcomed the seminar, noting that it was “vital and important” and provides the necessary financial information and education to (empower women).
The seminar, entitled: ‘Banking on Women: Access and Choice in Financial Services’ was organised by the Consumer Affairs Commission and Consumers International.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter