Sometimes, with all the buzz around women’s empowerment, it’s easy to forget just how new that concept is in the world of finance. American women could not legally own independent bank accounts until the 1960s, nor could women in the United Kingdom until 1975. Still today, millions of women throughout the developing world don’t have access to institutional financial services because cultural stigmas linger long after the laws on the books recognize women’s rights.
According to the World Bank’s Global Findex database, women in the developing economies are 20 percent less likely to have an account at a financial institution, and often even accounts under their names are de facto controlled by male relatives. Roya Mahboob, one ofAfghanistan’s leading tech entrepreneurs, overcame this dilemma by paying female employees in bitcoin.
According to Forbes, one employee with a violent and abusive husband who confiscated the employees’ money was reportedly able to use secret bitcoin savings to file for a divorce. The early bitcoin advocate Mahboob was deemed one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2013. Since then, she’s been busy supporting women technologists across Afghanistan, even sponsoring the all-girls robotics team that recently overcame controversial visa restrictions to win second place at a competition in Washington D.C.
Meanwhile, Mahboob’s Kabul-based nonprofit Digital Citizen Fund has enrolled 9,000 women and girls in educational programs covering topics like blockchain technology, bitcoin and Ethereum.
“We helped 100 women start their own businesses,” Mahboob told International Business Times. “The next step is we are going to have a bitcoin conference in Afghanistan so we can showcase their projects.”