The UN Women theme for International Women’s Day this year is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global challenges like climate change, and we must overcome gender gaps to make sure that women aren’t continuously left further behind. We’re working to help all women have the financial services they need to stay resilient in the face of challenges and thrive in the future.

We’re highlighting inspiring leaders who are working to build a more inclusive world in our annual blog series on the women of Accion and our partners. You can learn about more inspiring women in the second part of this series.

Here are a few of the women we’re proud to work with:


Shweta Pereira in Sierra Leone
Shweta visits employees and clients of Sierra Leone Commercial Bank

Shweta Pereira

Shweta Pereira first saw the impact that inclusive financial services can have when she worked for one of India’s largest private sector banks. Partnering with a dairy co-operative, the bank extended credit to dairy farmers based on the amount and quality of milk they supplied, giving these farmers access to credit for the first time and a means to invest in their farming businesses. By building a financial product that matched the unique needs of these dairy farmers, the bank was able to help farmers improve their lives, earn more for their families, and strengthen their communities at a scale that brought rapid improvements to the dairy sector.

In her role at Accion, Shweta continues to keep people and communities at the heart of her work. She’s passionate about finding ways to help people, especially women, overcome challenges so they can thrive in the future. On the setbacks of the pandemic, she says, “The stats on how the pandemic has affected women disproportionately are staggering: The pandemic will push 47 million women and girls into extreme poverty. Nearly 740 million women globally work in informal economic sectors. The pandemic has caused their income to drop by 60%. These statistics are hard to ignore! We know from experience that investing in women results in a better impact for the family, and not only for her generation but also for coming generations.” She believes viewing financial services through gender-disaggregated data, measuring outcomes on women, innovating product design with a gender focus, and engaging men as critical champions of change can help us serve women better.

Shweta is committed to giving women the tools they need to improve their lives and offers encouragement and support to all women. “If it were possible, I’d love to reach every woman in the world to say, ‘Your say matters.’ Even if you’re working in your home — what you say and do matters to your family, to the community, at the workplace, and to the world!”


Suzy Ferreira, Founder and CEO of Dinie

Suzy Ferreira

Growing up in Brazil as the daughter of an entrepreneur, Suzy Ferreira saw firsthand the opportunity — and the challenges — behind starting a business. “I had this entrepreneurial DNA. I think that most people coming from Brazil do have that. And not because they choose to, but because it’s the nature of being Brazilian. It’s a country that despite having so much wealth and resources and everything, there are a lot of difficulties as well, economically. So as a Brazilian, you always have to work towards building something.” And build something she did: Dinie, an embedded finance company that enables digital platforms to offer lending solutions to the significantly underserved Brazilian small business market.

By embedding innovative capital solutions in leading online marketplaces and e-commerce and payment platforms, Dinie enables convenient, instant, and fair access to capital for micro, small, and medium businesses within the platforms they already use to do business. From watching her father’s struggles to get adequate capital for his businesses — which ultimately led her family to go bankrupt due to abusive bank interest rates when she was only 9 years old — Suzy made it her life mission to transform the financial services industry.

After beginning her career in banking, Suzy felt called to pursue entrepreneurship, and to help other women entrepreneurs along the way. “That was a massive driving force for me: to give access to capital for women entrepreneurs,” she says. To stay focused on reaching women, Suzy made sure she had other women in leadership at Dinie. “One of the things I did to build a business that would serve SME’s that were created, owned, run by women was to ensure that I had another woman as a cofounder. Because I wanted our products, our experience, our tone of voice — I wanted all of that to include women.”


Melissa Baez, Chief Talent Officer at Accion

Melissa Baez

When Melissa Baez first started her career at Accion, she didn’t anticipate all the different places and paths that her job would take her. After pivoting from her finance career at a large investment bank, she moved to West Africa. “My passion for creating opportunities in low-income communities was spurred during my first position with Accion as an advisor for one of our MFI partners in Benin. During my years there, I saw firsthand how the availability of financial services helped entrepreneurs grow their businesses and families overcome hardships. This experience was a turning point in my career path and remains an important motivator today.”

Now, after 15+ years of advisory work with financial service providers around the world, Melissa knows that the most impactful financial products and services aren’t just those that are available; they must be built to meet the unique needs of the people we serve. This is especially true when it comes to reaching women who have faced disproportionate challenges during the pandemic. “To ensure women are equally part of the economic recovery, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the women that we are trying to reach. When we prioritize understanding a woman’s wants and needs and keep her at the center of product design and services, we can build effective solutions that truly make a difference in women’s lives.”

Melissa also spent time working in Haiti, which reinforced her belief that inclusive financial services must be developed with clients at the center. Agriculture makes up an important part of the Haitian economy, and two-fifths of Haitians depend on farming, but small-scale subsistence farming is particularly vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters. “Every year, natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes can wipe out a whole region’s crop and therefore people’s livelihoods. Smallholder farmers need a means to protect themselves against the shocks of natural disasters brought about by climate change. Financial products, like crop insurance, are an essential safety net for those who are most vulnerable.”

To other women who want to make an impact, Melissa says, “The best decisions I’ve made in my career have been those I didn’t see coming — whether it was an opportunity to move to West Africa, start up a new unit in Accion, or take a new leadership role in HR. Follow your passion and be ready for opportunities when they present themselves.”

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