[Event recap] Women in Risk Finance: An International Women’s Day Special Webinar

Mar 08

Women hold the power to create, nurture, and transform. Yet, mere survival is what they are often left fighting for, especially following a natural disaster. The statistics are bleak. Eighty percent of people who are displaced by climate change are women. Women are also 80% less likely than men to own a mobile phone and 20% less likely to use the Internet on a mobile phone. Which, quite simply, means that a woman is significantly likelier to be affected by a disaster and is unlikely to have access to finances, let alone emergency funds, to recover. With the rise in the occurrence of natural disasters, the need to protect women, as primary caregivers and providers, is now stronger than ever.

The ‘Women in Risk Finance’ webinar, held on March 8, to commemorate International Women’s Day, shone the spotlight on four strong women leaders in the disaster risk finance (DRF) sphere who have championed not only financial resilience towards natural disasters but also women’s empowerment. The event provided a platform for these leaders to discuss the opportunities, successes, and challenges they have experienced while advancing the financial resilience agenda in their countries.

The virtual event was opened by Jean Pesme (Global Director, Finance in the Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation [FCI] Global Practice), who highlighted the fact that vulnerability and exposure to disasters are influenced by gender. He said, “Women face greater challenges in accessing resources and participating in decision-making processes related to climate change adaptation and mitigation. They are disproportionately excluded from social protection schemes. We also see a lower level of financial inclusion, with women making up 55% of the world’s unbanked adults, meaning that they have no access to financial services such as bank accounts or insurance. Finally, they face barriers in accessing information. These factors highlight the importance of addressing the gender dimension in DRF policy formulation and project work. It’s not just a human rights issue; it is also smart economics.” 

The opening remarks were followed by short presentations from the speakers.

Ekaterine Guntsadze (Deputy Minister of Finance, Georgia) began her presentation by pointing out that gender equality and social inclusion need to be pillars of any DRF policy decision-making process. On the challenges she has faced, she said, “The challenges mainly pertain to data; how reliable they are and how we can streamline them and make projections and analyses based on them. Data collection is one of the key areas where we will be investing in the future.”

Nella Sri Hendriyetty (Head of Centre for Regional and Bilateral Policy, Indonesia) underscored the importance of increasing the level of awareness on DRF and the engagement of local government and other stakeholders, as well as strong collaboration with stakeholders, including subnational governments. Of the role of women in the DRF process, she explained, “The government of Indonesia is committed to increasing women’s participation in disaster risk management-related activities, by giving them significant roles as facilitators, tutors and trainers.”

Maleshoane Lekomola-Danziger (Budget Controller, Ministry of Finance, Lesotho) took the opportunity to draw attention to the need for DRF strategies that focus on protecting MSMEs. “They are important sources of jobs and income in Lesotho. When there are shocks, MSMEs are often hit the hardest and lack the financial resources to withstand them," she said. She further explained how Lesotho is now mobilizing grant and concessional resources to support its DRF agenda, with the aim of increasing access to business support services and financial products, particularly for women and youth.

Rosalia V. De Leon (Treasurer of the Philippines, Bureau of Treasure, Republic of Philippines) stressed upon the need for creativity and innovation in managing disasters. She said, “In the Philippines, we expect an average of 20 tropical cyclones every year. This makes it imperative for us to be more proactive managers. We have in place a set of strategic policy goals to help guide the crafting of our DRF strategy.” She also emphasized the role of upskilling through workshops, conferences, and training programs, adding, “Capacity building is crucial in the development and implementation of innovative and more complex risk transfer instruments.”

The event, attended virtually by 90+ participants, was facilitated by Kaavya Ashok Krishna (Senior Financial Sector Specialist working in the Finance, Competitiveness, and Innovation [FCI] Global Practice).

Key takeaways

  • Women can play a strong role in conducting training and discussions about disaster risk management in their communities, as well as in channelling funds after a disaster.
  • Generating data for risk analysis and building a database are key to constructing a good DRF program.
  • The establishment of a robust and flexible public finance management system is crucial.
  • DRF strategies should also focus on protecting MSMEs.
  • The involvement of the private sector in DRF should be enhanced to minimize the burden on national governments.
  • Constant dialog with local and development partners as well as regulators can help in the implementation of more accessible risk transfer mechanisms for both the public and private sector.

Click here to view video recording of the webinar.

Click here to view the presentation of the webinar.

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