Innovative experiences to promote Panamanian women’s entrepreneurship

“Empowering women and girls has a multiplier effect and helps promote economic growth and development globally”, confirms United Nations Development Program and remarked that SDG 5, which advocates for Gender Equality, must be a reality by 2030. This topic was discussed in the panel entitled “Invest intelligently, Innovate for change: Experiences on innovative financing for women”, organized by UN Women and Microserfin, the Panamanian institution of BBVA Microfinance Foundation.

The event has been focused on the importance of economically empowering Panamanian women to lead social, entrepreneurial and economic development. The Regional Office’s specialist on economic empowerment policies, Raquel Coello, noted that financing models must be “innovative and sustainable”. This message has been reinforced by the Minister for Panama’s Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Authority (Ampyme), Maria Celia Dopeso.

Event organized by UN Women and Microserfin

On his part, Microserfin’s general manager, Daniel Oblitas, assured that “financial inclusion, supported by technological innovation and digitalization, promotes the progress of our female entrepreneurs we serve, and they are essential in improving the lives of their families and communities, including that of their country.” 43% of the the institution’s loan portfolio is composed of enterprising women. 36% live in rural areas and 77% are vulnerable. Most of them work in trade, services or agricultural activities and production, creating employment and strengthening the value chain. Of all these women, 4 in every 10 develop their livelihoods without added income or support from a spouse.

Águeda Santos is one of these women. It’s very clear for her that making financing accessible to female entrepreneurs is to give them the opportunity that they don’t usually have. She makes traditional costumes, the montunos and polleras, and also the tembleques, a traditional headdress for women.

Female entrepreneur Águeda Santos, during her panel intervention

In her case, as is the case of many women around the world, she learned the craft from her mother, and has perfected the needlework technique thanks to training courses. Today, just like her mother, she shares her knowledge to the women in her community, where she also teaches how to sew. Águeda, who participated in this panel to share her story, invites other women to dream: “If I did it, you could, too.”

The joint organization of this panel, held on the occasion of International Women’s Day, strengthens the partnership between UN Women and BBVA Microfinance Foundation, to nurture the development and inclusion of low-income female entrepreneurs in Latin America.