“Women have brilliant ideas, amazing insights, and the ability to instinctively bring people together and find solutions to problems they and their communities face,” says Nazanine Scheuer. “But what they’re often missing is financial services — whether seed funding or working capital — to turn their ideas into viable businesses that can sustain their families and strengthen their communities.” As Accion’s Chief Development and Partnerships Officer, Nazanine is helping scale our work to connect low-income people to loans, credit, insurance, and other financial tools needed to grow businesses and improve their financial health.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Nazanine has witnessed firsthand the strong entrepreneurial nature of women. Throughout her career, whether working in the private sector in the cacao industry or on the development sector side working at Save the Children, she has met women entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers in different parts of the world. In Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Nicaragua, and Honduras, amongst others, she observed the constraints that prevent women farmers from turning their small farms and microenterprises into thriving businesses that can provide for their families. Like in many other regions, social norms keep women farmers in West Africa from owning their land or accessing loans, credit, and other financial support to grow their businesses. “Without access to financial services designed to meet their needs, these entrepreneurs miss out on opportunities to improve their incomes. Digital innovations can help us get these tools into the hands of the women who need them most.”
Rural communities and smallholder farmers are a vital part of both local economies and the global food supply. But they’re facing huge obstacles, including very low incomes, disrupted supply chains from the pandemic, fragmented agricultural value chains, and rising threats from climate change. “Agriculture isn’t just the way that millions of farmers make a living; it’s how we feed the world. By working toward localizing and regionalizing value chains, we can help farmers, who are among the most vulnerable to climate shocks, to strengthen their incomes. We need to ensure that people in rural communities have what they need to succeed and secure their futures, especially women who have fewer economic opportunities,” says Nazanine.
“To advance equity for women and communities across the globe, we need to build global and regional strategic partnerships that can help us reach more people with inclusive financial services and improve outcomes,” she says. Alongside several private sector and NGO partners, Accion responded to a White House call-to-action to help create the Partnership for Central America, which aims to create economic security, stability, and opportunity in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. From Central America to sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia, rural populations are hugely vulnerable to climate shocks and need financial tools that can help them to stay resilient and strengthen their livelihoods. “If we are to move the needle and create real change in the financial services sector, and truly create economic opportunities for everyone, we need partners to join us and work together to address these issues creatively.”