SAEDI Consulting (Barbados) Inc, in collaboration with WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management) and SGP (Society of Gender Professionals) was honoured to bring together an esteemed group of panellists and experts in climate resilience finance to present on the subject of ‘Gender Responsive Resourcing for Climate Resilience’ at the NGO forum of the 66th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66).
This event marked SAEDI Consulting’s first time co-hosting a parallel event for the CSW and we were honoured to be selected and be among a group of exceptional gender-focused organizations sharing their work. Our speakers for this event were:
Sumayyah Cargill, Unit Head of Strategic Development Initiatives, Bahamas Development Bank
Kaylene Alvarez, Founder & CEO, Athena Global
Dr Jennifer Cissé, Senior Research Manager, Munich Climate Insurance Initiative
Dennis Kyalo, Programme Associate, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs
with our CEO & Founder, Leisa Perch (as Host)
Through their experience and extensive knowledge of gender responsive resourcing for climate resilience, our speakers provided our participants with several key messages, lessons learned and good practice.
Climate financing must be taken through a gender lens
Our first speaker was Sumayyah Cargill, Unit Head of Strategic Development and Initiatives at the Bahamas Development Bank. In her role she is focused on integrating sustainable development frameworks into the daily operations of the bank and generating projects that combine creative financing, technical assistance, and policy advocacy for innovation in economies.
Like many small island developing states, The Bahamas is considerably vulnerable to climate shocks that can negatively affect its
economy. Considered a high-income country, Bahamians live in the 6th most expensive country in the world with a minimum wage salary of $210 per week while experiencing the highest level of income inequality in the Caribbean. As an archipelago of 700 islands and cays, that there is great diversity in the living circumstances of Bahamians. From an economic perspective, issues of climate and gender in the country intersect with a host of other variables including geographic location, family lineages and cultural norms. As a result of the high costs of living, lower wages and other normative factors, the average Bahamian likely struggle to secure basic adaptation resources such as climate insurance.
For the development bank to provide loans, individual financial strength is important, proven with collateral and experience criteria. In a country where women earn approximately 30% less than men, women are already at a financial disadvantage, reducing their eligibility to access financing. This makes women and female headed households more vulnerable to shocks that threaten their livelihoods; they are also less likely to access finance to improve their circumstances in a disaster.
The Bank has begun addressing the structural challenges that limit women’s access to disaster finance through various initiatives and programs. They have implemented a gender policy at the bank working with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. They have also partnered with the US Embassy to increase the number of small female owned businesses gaining access to finance through their Academy of Women Entrepreneurs Program. The Bank has also partnered with UN Women to be the first focal point for SDG funding in the Bahamas in a program designed to create a gender equitable financing mechanism addressing some of the challenges women face accessing finance.
Providing finance at the nexus of gender and climate change creates combined synergies
Our second speaker, Kaylene Alvarez, is the Founder of Athena Global and has worked for over 25 years in private and public sectors, focusing on access to finance for small and medium enterprises with attention on gender lens investing and risk management. She launched Athena Global to help bridge the gap in creating impact though blended finance capital to grow sustainable businesses in emerging markets.
Athena Capital has two main areas of focus for impact: gender and climate, and they endeavor to work at the nexus of both. Women are often not captured in the formal economy, and the philosophy of Athena Global is that unpaid or undervalued work from women hurts everyone. Evidence shows that women invest more in other women and that women can be catalysts for positive change around climate change and cultural dynamics. More specifically, Athena Global is focusing their work on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and structure approximately 70% of their portfolio towards women-led enterprise. They also work with male business owners who are committed to gender and climate change, and who support equitable policies for women such as doing away with pay gaps and promoting employees internally.
While women face difficulties gaining access to finance and can be some of the most vulnerable to climate impacts, they can also be the ones most likely to come up with adaptive solutions. To address this financing issue, Athena Global engages in a bottom-up approach with locally hired teams based in Indonesia and Africa to bring about cultural change within the culture as opposed to imposing change from the outside. Their program provides loans without requiring collateral or personal guarantees that can typically keep women excluded from the formal financial sector. They focus purely on cash-flows and create loan-repayment structures that are customized to businesses’ own cash-flow cycle, by timing loan repayments to a crop or growing cycle, for example. They work with their clients to set incremental goals and make changes that strike a balance between gender and climate equity. Investments are made using blended finance, funded with grant capital in local currency, easing various risks that could be a perceived as a barrier to investment at the climate-gender nexus.
Gender-responsive financial instruments are essential to support women in times of climate crisis and disaster.
Our third presenter, Jennifer Cissé, is Senior Research Manager at the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII) at the United National Institute for Environment and Human Security. In her work, Jennifer supports the development and implementation of climate and disaster risk financing products for vulnerable populations.
The MCII is working on disaster risk financing, primarily in the areas of policy analytics and solution implementation. On policy, they work closely with multi-actor partnerships creating principles that support the design of equitable climate and disaster risk finance. They help national and sub-national governments in understanding the economics of climate adaptation and how finance (including insurance) fits into climate adaptation.
MCII’s focus is predominantly on small island states, small island developing states, and large ocean states. In the Pacific and Caribbean regions, they are working on the development and implementation of climate risk insurance, with a central focus on cyclone and hurricane insurance products. They are applying a gender lens to their work by looking at how risk exposure, disaster impacts, and coping strategies differentiate among men and women. In Fiji, for example, the country suffers from some of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world, which evidence has shown can likely increase following disasters. Women in Fiji play limited financial roles which can make it difficult to find financial solutions that make sense for them, however, at the same time they are active in discussions at the household level around livelihoods and financial risk. Historically, insurance solutions have been not only gender blind, but livelihood blind as well. Because of this, attention needs to be paid to various livelihood strategies and women’s roles in these industries, for example sugar cane production vs fishing, each which can require different financial strategies and insurance solutions that make sense.
In exploring some of these complexities, MCII has begun working with women led organizations to make sure the products they are developing are accessible to women and meet their needs. They are collaborating across regions they work in to learn and understand the nuances and similarities of risk and decision-making power of women and men, including their specific preferences for both insurance and bundled products, such as savings that could be used to support their specific livelihoods and security immediately following an event.
Building a strategic and gender-responsive investment ecosystem can result in substantial co-benefits.
Our final speaker of the session was Dennis Kyalo. Dennis is a Program Specialist and Research Analyst in the climate entrepreneurship sector with the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE). His experience is in business support services that unenhanced climate resilience, create conducive business environments and provide market access for entrepreneurs in developing economies.
Only 2% of the world’s business incubators and accelerators focus on climate related challenges, despite it being such a significant and timely issue. This is also an indication that there are research gaps, investment gaps and capacity building gaps in this area. Through their work, ANDE is attempting to reduce some of these gaps and provide solutions. An example of their work is the ‘Women Climate Entrepreneurs Project’ that covers sub-Saharan Africa. In this project they are aiming to build a gender lens investment ecosystem for women climate entrepreneurs. The project is also closely aligned with ANDE’s strategic priorities of climate action, decent jobs and gender equality. The project focuses on small growth-oriented enterprises that require between $20,000 to $2 Million USD. Financial support for this initiative is provided on a grant basis rather than through loans.
By focusing on women, ANDE is trying to address some of the unequal vulnerabilities and impacts that affect women compared to men in terms of climate change. They are also attempting to leverage women-led solutions that can help fight climate change with the belief that “investing in women is an investment in the climate”. In sub-Saharan Africa, where they are working, most climate interventions are taking place in the agriculture sector and are female-led. At ANDE, they believe taking this approach is not only the right thing to do but is also good for business. Research shows that every dollar invested in women climate entrepreneurs, larger returns are generated when compared to that of their male counterparts.
Additional factors important to the work they do, is an appreciation for the role of public finance, that can provide a solution when private financial institutions are too risk averse to investment in this area. They also focus on improving the funding ecosystem through different types of blended finance built around equitable grants and are continuously identifying and supporting areas where there are research and data gaps in this field. Lastly, they strongly believe that you cannot do good work and not tell others about what you are doing. They make it a top priority to share their success stories, including what works and what doesn’t work with their wider investment ecosystem.
There were many insights to be gained from our panelists. They reminded us of the importance to focus on women-specific or gender-responsive interventions, to look to public finance to support initiatives at the nexus of gender and climate – issues that may incur risk aversion from private sector investment, and that an investment in women can provide for not only equitable solutions, but also profitable solutions while also addressing the climate crisis.
We want to sincerely thank our panel, as well as all our participants, for joining us for SAEDI’s first CSW side event!
We encourage you to participate in our regular webinar series which we host every 2nd Tuesday of every second month. We gather at these times to hear from sector leaders and explore new ideas on topical issues. Around these virtual conversations, we identify the factors that drive, spur, include and deter participation of vulnerable and marginalized groups, as well as what more is needed, to reach the goal of inclusive and just societies. This year, we will focus on groups. We have looked at climate entrepreneurs. We also want to look at Youth, Persons with Disabilities, Indigenous People, Migrant Women and more.
Join us at the next one!