In the peer reviewed journal PLOS One, GIWPS’ Dr. Jeni Klugman and co-authors explore financial inclusion, an area of growing global interest in women’s empowerment policy and programming.
While increased economic autonomy may be expected to reduce the prevalence of intimate partner violence, the mechanisms and contexts through which this relationship manifests are not well understood. This analysis aims to assess the relationship between women’s financial inclusion and recent intimate partner violence using nationally- representative data from 112 countries worldwide. Levels of both financial inclusion and recent intimate partner violence varied substantially across countries (ranging from 2–100%, and 1–46%, respectively), and across regions. In multivariate global analyses, increased levels of women’s financial inclusion were associated with lower levels of recent intimate partner violence after accounting for asset-based enablers of economic autonomy and gender norms; this relationship was lost upon the inclusion of measures of national con- text (i.e., development and fragility). These results underscore that the relationship between financial inclusion and recent intimate partner violence is complex, follows many pathways, and is affected by context. In low and middle income countries, asset-based enablers of economic autonomy, gender norms and national context explained much of the relationship between financial inclusion and recent intimate partner violence. In those low and middle income countries with high levels of controlling behavior by male spouses, financial inclusion was associated with higher levels of recent intimate partner violence. These findings further suggest that initiatives that aim to prevent intimate partner violence by way of increased eco- nomic autonomy may be ineffective in the absence of broader social change and support, and indeed, as seen in countries with higher levels of men’s controlling behavior, backlash may increase the risk of violence. Efforts to improve women’s financial inclusion need to rec- ognize that its relationship with intimate partner violence is complex, and that it requires an enabling environment supportive of women’s rights and autonomy.