Accelerating financial inclusion of women and youth - Zayela Initiative


Zayela Initiative kiosk in Mzimba
A customer making a financial transaction at a Zayela Initiative money kiosk managed by Edingeni women’s group in Mzimba,Malawi. Photo: UN Women/James Ochweri

Women and girls in Mzimba district like most parts of Malawi’s rural areas do not have access to financial services, due to persistent barriers in access to identification documents, mobile phones, digital skills, formal education, financial capability, as well as inappropriate products. This is changing with the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative that seeks to use model digital financial products and services to accelerate financial inclusion of women and youth.

A bright red kiosk stands in the middle of a bustling market in a busy trading center in northern Malawi. A man approaches the kiosk and quickly transacts with a young woman in the kiosk. The man hands over new, crisp money notes to the woman as he hurriedly gives instructions on his phone about collection of the money 584 kilometers away in the industrial hub of Blantyre. Within minutes, the transaction is done, and the man quickly walks away from the kiosk.

Zayela Initiative, a digital finance service, has been a game changer in Mzimba and other hard to reach areas. Across Mzimba, the red money kiosks are being set up thanks to the partnership between UN Women, it’s implementing partner ActionAid and telecommunications company, Airtel Malawi to promote digital financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women and young women at risk of violence. ActionAid remitted funds to Airtel Malawi for onward transfer into Spotlight Initiative women groups’ digital accounts to open digital money transfer kiosks. Airtel Malawi provided kiosks, trained group members on due diligence and safeguarding to prevent loss of funds through scams and monitor groups to ensure business growth. Since the start of Zayela in May 2022, about 5,137 women from 40 groups in Mzimba have benefitted.

Through linking women and young women to mobile money platforms, women are now able to venture into digital entrepreneurship and livelihood initiatives. Edingeni Kiosk in Mmbelwa earned MK1,600,000, some of the money was shared to the women’s group members while a majority was pumped back into the mobile money business. “One of the challenges women groups and local organisations fighting gender-based violence face is lack of money to prevent and respond to violence against women, Zayela has empowered the movement economically and socially” says Dorothy Mkandawire, a member of Edingeni women’s group.