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Power Conference Promotes New Initiatives for Working Women and Women Entrepreneurs

IDB Group to support initiatives by Itau Unibanco and Coca-Cola, among others, to help women gain ground in the workforce

LIMA, Peru – More than 400 leading figures from the public and private sectors gathered today at Power: Women as Drivers of Growth and Social Inclusion, a high-level conference that is part of the First Social Inclusion Week organized by the Peruvian government, held October 15–19.

Participants analyzed new strategies and tools that will help women obtain quality jobs, as well as establish and develop their own companies. Critical issues in achieving gender equality in the workplace were analyzed; among them, financial inclusion, access to capital and integration into value chains and new markets.

During the conference organized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion of Peru (MIDIS) and the U.S. State Department, there were several announcements focused on social and economic inclusion of women in the region. Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and UN Women’s Executive Director Michelle Bachelet kicked off the event at the Westin Hotel’s Convention Center.

“Women have become our partners to achieve social inclusion policies in Peru”, said President Humala.“We want to show the world our firm political commitment to increase women´s participation in politics and the labor market”.

Michelle Bachelet congratulated President Humala for his political commitment, and mentioned other key factors to close gender equality gaps. “We also need education, education and more education. Third, we need more women in decision-making positions. Finally, we need more gender-oriented policies” said Bachelet.

Hillary Clinton highlighted that “women drive economic growth as producers and consumers”and announced the launch of a Women Entrepreneurship Fund with pilot programs in Peru and El Salvador. The United States is contributing $900,000 as seed capital to this Fund in order to help women manage their businesses more efficiently and access new markets.

During the luncheon, IDB Executive Vice President Julie T. Katzman announced the creation of a network of public sector women leaders, in association with Google. “These successful women, to continue reaping achievements, need a network that provides them information and resources; in other words, they need each other,” said Katzman. “Both technology-oriented women and top government officials in Latin America and the Caribbean will now have their own space to discuss experiences connected to gender equality in various sectors of development.”

Initiatives announced in Lima

During the afternoon session announcing new initiatives, the IDB indicated its commitment to implement and evaluate a violence prevention model in Latin America and the Caribbean through microfinancing. The program will be based on the IMAGE model, which was developed in South Africa and achieved a 55 percent decrease in incidents of physical abuse for the women who participated in the program.

The IDB will also support the PRIMER program, a collaborative effort with the Mayo Clinic and the Salud Mesoamérica 2015 Initiative to train a prominent group of professionals from two Honduran hospitals.The goal of the program is to provide additional medical training to strengthen clinical capabilities and the ability to respond to obstetrical and neonatal complications in public health care system hospitals.

In addition, with support from the IDB and other local partners, We Connect International announced it will work to provide training to more than 600 women entrepreneurs in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru in order to facilitate their integration into value chains and their access to larger markets.

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the IDB Group announced the upcoming launch of an index to evaluate the environment for women’s business start-ups and growth in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The first edition of the WEVentureScope, produced in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit, will be released in early 2013.

Itáu Unibanco announced its commitment to provide access to tailored financial products and services to 1,500 women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Brazil. With financial support from the IDB Group, Itaú Unibanco will design and implement a new loan access process for women-led SMEs that incorporates tools that measure entrepreneurs’ attributes and personalities, not only their credit history and collateral. 

Within the framework of its 5 by 20 training initiative, Coca-Cola announced its plan to consolidate and expand to additional markets its successful Brazil Coletivo social entrepreneurship model. Coletivo leverages Coca-Cola’s value chain to offer low-income women and young women who are trying to succeed in the marketplace access to markets and training in business and job skills. 

UN Women announced the expansion of economic opportunities for women in rural areas of Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua. The $2.5 million project will help 180 women’s organizations improve their revenues and capital.

Separately, Belcorp, a cosmetics company, announced two initiatives to provide access to financial services to its 160,000 consultants in 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, while Dell said it will invest human and financial resources to expand its Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Peru. 

Other announcements included the one from Club de Madrid, which will hold its annual conference, “Harnessing 21st Century Solutions: A Focus on Women” at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 17–19, in cooperation with the William J. Clinton Foundation, UN Women and the Council of Women World Leaders.