Money Women Can Bank On

Mobile Payments Increase Women’s Economic Power

Judy Chisimba, PMI AIRS Team Leader, checks her balance with mobile service provider AIRTEL.

Judy Chisimba, PMI AIRS Team Leader, checks her balance with mobile service provider AIRTEL.

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) Africa Indoor Residual Spraying (AIRS) Project protects millions of people by spraying insecticide on the walls, ceilings, and indoor surfaces of homes to kill mosquitoes that transmit malaria. To spray the homes, the project employs thousands of seasonal workers, many who lack the credit and cash needed to establish conventional bank accounts, limiting their ability to save and transfer money. In 2015, the PMI AIRS Project implemented a mobile banking system in Zambia for its seasonal workers, providing risk-free, safe and reliable payments.

Facilitated by a mobile network operator, seasonal workers were able to access their money through a mobile phone SIM card. Mobile payments are helping to increase financial options and decision-making authority for workers, particularly women. With direct access to electronic funds, women now have more control over their money, allowing for independent financial planning, saving, and purchasing as the recipients can use the phones to manage their financial accounts including money deposits, transfers, and cash out.

PMI AIRS Team Leader Filumba Beauty and her son Richard stand in front of their house that she built from the income she earned on the project. With PMI AIRS’ new mobile payment system she can now send money directly to her son when he’s at university. Photo credits: Laura McCarty

Before working as a spray operator, Filumba Beauty was working as a volunteer counselor and had no income for her and her three children. Since she started working for the PMI AIRS Project three years ago, she’s been promoted from spray operator to Team Leader. The money she’s earned has enabled her to build a house for her and her three children and is helping to pay for her son’s third year of teaching school. Beauty said, however, that she was having difficulty saving money and getting her son the money when he needed it.

“When you have cash and no bank account, it’s hard to save,” said Beauty. “You just use the money. I would see things and buy them. Now I don’t do that.”

“It’s easy to send my son money with the mobile phone when he needs it,” she added. “And using the phone is much safer.”

Beauty’s son Richard said that the mobile payments have made a huge difference in his life. “School is very stressful. We get bills and we have to pay immediately. Before, we really struggled to do that and the school doesn’t care if you live far away from home and can’t get money right away. It’s so much easier with the mobile phones. My mom seems so much stronger. It’s not as stressful now and I can focus on my tests instead of worrying about the bills.”

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