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Supporting women to face climate change could lift 150 million people out of poverty

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BBVA Microfinance Foundation took part in the United Nations’ 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) to share its experience in driving women’s economic and social development. During her intervention, the Foundation’s head of Sustainability and Women’s Economic Empowerment, Laura Fernández Lord, stressed that offering vulnerable women “innovative climate change adaptation measures and access technical assistance and digitalization, could increase their output up to 30% and lift 150 million people out of poverty.”

She also shared that financial inclusion is an “effective tool capable of increasing women’s economic empowerment as well as protecting the environment, however, only 10% of the women in the region have access to financing.”

The overarching conclusion at this year’s meeting maintained the conclusion that “women and girls’ leadership is key to face climate change, environmental care and disaster risk reduction for all.”

For another year, CSW66 hosted high level participants from member States, including heads of state and government representatives, three vice presidents and 111 ministers. Alongside, member countries also organized 213 virtual parallel events together with UN entities, most of which were in collaboration with civil society. More than 800 virtual parallel NGO events that have pushed dialogues with policy makers, making sure that their voices are heard and considered within these processes.

Green microfinance with gender lens

COVID-19 and climate change have further exacerbated gender gaps and have increased care work, reducing women’s capacity to fully contribute to the economy.

“In Latin America, 60 million rural women still greatly depend on natural resources, but lack the means to face these challenges”, explained Laura Fernández Lord. As an alternative, the Foundation makes green microfinance more accessible to them: “it’s a wide range of products and services that allow them to mitigate their vulnerability and build their resilience to climate change.”

Sandra Ceballos, emprendedora colombiana FMBBVA

Sandra Ceballos, colombian BBVAMF entrepreneur, combines her recycling business with taking care of her children - BBVAMF - FMBBVA

“We make financing accessible to more than 144,000 rural women, without requiring them to own land titles. We offer them loans and skills training that promote climate change mitigation and adaptation measures as well as for the use of green power, water sewage programs and innovative agricultural and climatic microinsurance to protect their investments and crops from natural disasters”, she explained.

“Our data show that when women are given an opportunity, they are more willing to apply sustainable solutions in their activities, compared to men.”

Moreover, she stressed the concern for the “non-paid jobs borne by the women entrepreneurs we serve” given that it is one of the main obstacles for their economic independence. “In these past two years, we also assessed how female heads of household demand more of our services.”

Considering the lack of social care for many of the women entrepreneurs running informal businesses, plus the crisis caused by COVID-19, BBVAMF launched “a line of health microinsurance that costs less than 1USD monthly which includes breast and uterus cancer diagnosis, among others, for the women and their families, aside from maternity microinsurance for economic support during lactation period.”

Fernández Lord also explained that the Foundation is currently designing “skills training programs to bring them closer to the new opportunities of the care economy so they could start formal businesses in the sector and contribute to reactivating the economy.”

Lastly, she made an appeal to “increase financing and training to launch formal care-related activities to increase the regional GDP to 25%. We should take advantage of this great economic opportunity”, she concluded.

Involving the youth

The agreements reached during CSW66 will be adopted by the member States, asserting the role of women and girls in fighting against climate change. It was also announced that from CSW67 onwards, the Commission will include “an interactive youth dialogue within its annual program to facilitate exchanges among youth representatives of the member States’ delegations”. This allows for the new generation to be involved in achieving gender equality and in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda from a gender perspective.

Watch Laura Fernandez Lord’s speech here (1:21:58)