The 6th edition of the BBVAMF Group Leadership meeting gathered development sector experts, who, along with the BBVA Microfinance Foundation and its institutions, work together to improve the lives of people under vulnerable conditions
The 6th edition of the BBVAMF Group Leadership Meeting was an event that convened development sector experts who work with the BBVA Microfinance Foundation and its institutions to drive the progress of people living under vulnerable conditions.
To stay optimistic given the times we are living through, comes as a challenge. Uncertainty seems likely to become a permanent state, defying the power of information, which up until recently has been an effective weapon against the unpredictable. That is why it is so encouraging to know that a shared project exists to transform the world and make it a better place. A commitment that the BBVA Microfinance Foundation took up 12 years ago, together with international bodies that have become household names in development and that share a common purpose: to improve the lives of vulnerable people.
This is an urgent challenge, there can be no doubt about the need to work together on issues such as: gender equality, education, bringing rural areas into the digital world, environmental sustainability and universal access to basic services such as water, sanitation and financial products, all leveraged with suitable regulation. Different paths lead to the same direction, and they crossed again at the 6th BBVAMF Group Leadership Meeting, held recently in Santo Domingo.
“For microfinance to really have an impact, we need to understand the market and design a plan that takes into account both the strengths of the sector and its weaknesses, paying particular attention to distribution channels, technology infrastructure and data”, urged the CEO of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), Greta Bull. Furthermore, she pointed out, digitalization must be a means, not an end, and she concluded that “digitalization calls for a change in people for the transformation to be real”.
All the external speakers at the workshops discussed digital transformation from different perspectives. For example, for the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Manuel Otero, technology is key in supporting the rural environment. “The future is reaching the remote areas and we have to make the most of this opportunity to build bridges between urban and rural living”, he stated, further explaining that family farming also needs financing, as well as technology, to make its development sustainable.
But development cannot occur without basic services such as clean water and sanitation. Ensuring such access is the purpose of Water.org, an NGO that has already impacted 25 million people throughout the world, and which works in Peru through BBVAMF. In Water.org, Jessica Jacobson, Senior Manager for Financial Institutions, has also worked in the Dominican Republic, and points to the anomaly that in the world “there are more people with a mobile phone than with a lavatory”.
Technology & gender equality
Women were at front stage during this 6th Leadership Meeting, for the role they play on this shared path towards prosperity. They were given voice by women with significant expertise, such as the UN Women Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, María Noel Vaeza, and the Dominican Republic’s Minister for Women, Janet Camilo.
“We need policies that strengthen the inclusion of women in digitalization, in this country and throughout the world”, highlighted the minister, stressing that this should be a priority in the education of girls, in order to guarantee equal opportunities. “Technology platforms allow us to save time and achieve better work-life balance; we urgently need to access them because everything moves very quickly”.
Speed is of the essence in the development sector. Yet the UN Women Regional Director indicated that progress is slow and more changes are needed: “We have to look at poverty differently and seek out new ways of measuring its impact”. She highlighted the work of the Foundation in her speech, as an example of how both things can be achieved.
BBVAMF measures its social performance through indicators that assess the progress of entrepreneurs over the different stages in their lives. They progress thanks to their micro-enterprises, and the financial services which enable them to increase their productivity and enhance their value chain. More than half of the people served by the Foundation are women, who decide to become self-employed entrepreneurs because of the barriers that prevent them from accessing the labor market. According to María Noel Vaeza, “that is the main obstacle to the development of women, because we don’t have anyone to look after our children and our elderly relatives”.
Amanda and the value of a microloan
Nothing seems real until you put a face to it. That is what the manager of Colombia’s Banca de las Oportunidades, Freddy Castro, did. He told us about Amanda, a BBVAMF client in that country: “When we went to visit her, she told us how a microloan had changed her life. It was a valuable testimony to create awareness about the value of microfinance, but the story behind it is even more powerful”.
In 1998, the FARC took over the city of Mitú, where Amanda lives, and kidnapped more than 60 people. “Her voice gave a message of hope in a municipality which still bears scars from the war 20 years later. That is why the work of institutions such as Bancamía is so important”, said Castro. He ended: “financial inclusion is essential for equality”.
A declaration with which attendants to this 6th edition of the Leadership Meeting agree. They are representatives from all the BBVA Microfinance Foundation Group’s areas and institutions, together with external guests. The list is long and impressive: as well as CGAP, UN Women, Water.org, the government of the Dominican Republic, Banca de las Oportunidades and IICA; also present were representatives from the World Bank, BBVA Data, Peru’s Banking Authority (SBS: Superintendencia de Banca y Seguros), the equivalent institution from the Dominican Republic (SIB: Superintendencia de Banca) and Mastercard.
Over the course of three days, among them, they sketched out the path towards a better world using the only compass possible: the purpose that unites us.