The UN Women theme for International Women’s Day this year was, “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 our first in this series.

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

Adelina Dasso visiting clients in India
Adelina Dasso visits women entrepreneurs and clients of RBL FinServe (formally known as Swadhaar FinServe) in Mumbai, India.

Adelina Dasso

Living in Lima, Peru, Adelina Dasso sees the inequalities that women face every day. “I have been involved in initiatives to support those in need, especially related to education and women, since I was in high school,” she says. She brought her passion for making a difference for low-income people to her job when she started her career in investments. In her current role as a senior investment officer at Accion, Adelina sees the opportunities that impact investing can create in low-income communities in Latin America and around the world, saying, “I truly believe in the power of capital markets to reduce inequality.”

When it comes to advancing equality for women, Adelina says, “I believe that the only way to reduce the gender gap is to really focus on addressing it, set up ambitious goals, and innovate, always around the client. We should listen to what women need and use innovation to close the gaps that are holding them back. I am optimistic when I see our portfolio and pipeline companies launching products tailored to women and new impact funds with more women on their senior teams.”

As climate change creates increasing challenges for the world, especially for women in low-income communities, people need support to prepare for and respond to climate issues. “Financial service providers need to consider the implications of climate change on their clients and their businesses. They should prioritize facing those challenges by adapting their product offering to their clients’ needs. Tailored solutions, like appropriate insurance and access to education, are key to tackling climate change.” She believes women are well-equipped to lead the charge in this effort, saying, “Given the high adaptability of women, they can help us face this challenge and respond faster.”

For others who want to get involved in social impact work, Adelina encourages people to support organizations that are addressing causes they feel most passionate about, and carve out a niche where they can make a difference in the lives of women and communities around the world. “The social impact space is growing and needs you to reduce inequality. Given that women face the largest gaps, what could be better than women supporting women?”

Tanwi Kumari

Tanwi Kumari

While the world faces increasing challenges stemming from the climate change crisis, Tanwi Kumari believes we must stay focused on advancing gender equality as women bear the brunt of some of the worst climate consequences. The climate crisis has a disproportionate impact on women, and women are 14 times as likely as men to die due to a disaster, according to a UN Women report. Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to societal and cultural norms. Their roles and responsibilities often make them disproportionate users of natural resources, like water, firewood, and forest products, to make a living or run their households. “With unequal access to resources and limited social mobility, women are disproportionately affected by climate-related hazards. We need to identify gender-sensitive strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change,” says Tanwi.

As we look to rebuild from the pandemic and create a sustainable future, Tanwi says, “We cannot just leave half of the population behind; we cannot leave women further behind. To turn promises into action, we need to step up and tackle inequalities and discrimination. We need to invest in inclusive green finance policies and programs and design products and services that work for women.” Tanwi stresses that we need better quality sex-disaggregated data — data about individual clients that is broken down by sex and age — to properly assess and respond to the specific needs of women.

Tanwi is a research manager at the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI), an independent, global think tank organization housed at Accion that uses rigorous research and advocacy to advance inclusive financial systems for low-income women and men around the world. In her work at CFI, and from her previous work at Accion and our partner Dvara Trust, Tanwi says, “I’ve learned that access to finance is an absolutely critical component of equitable recovery and helps to address both economic and social challenges.” Financial tools like cash transfers, savings, insurance, and credit, can help women and their families to stay resilient and respond to climate-related shocks.

To ensure that we build financial solutions that reach women, Tanwi believes we need women in decision-making roles at local, national, and global levels. “To make an impact, we need more women to break the glass ceiling and take up leadership positions, standing for themselves and speaking up with confidence.” Tanwi is inspired by many other women in leadership at CFI and Accion and believes in the value of mentorship and coaching, saying, “All we need to do is ask for support, and follow our path with passion, empathy, and commitment to building a growing economy and a better world.”

Nazanine Scheuer

Nazanine Scheuer

“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.”

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