Designing social protection insurance schemes to benefit rural women: Lessons from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa

This webinar, titled Designing social protection insurance schemes to benefit rural women: lessons from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, presented an overview of effective and affordable insurance schemes available to woman. The intention was to explore various methodologies used to increase financial protection for the poor. It also discussed what is being done to increase financial protection for the poorest rural women, and how to design insurance schemes that address their gender-specific needs and priorities for support in times of crisis. The event represented the 7th edition of the Series of discussions from the Gender Sensitive Social Protection Webinar Series.

The webinar was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).This session featured four panelists, including Shree Kant Kumar (CEO of Vimo, Self-Employed Woman Association/SEWA) with support from Ms Tara Sinha, Mathieu Dubreuil (Micro-insurance Specialist, R4 Rural Resilience Initiative for WFP), and Christina Dankmeyer, (Advisor for the Social Protection Sector Initiative GIZ), and Maja Gavrilovic (Social Protection Specialist, FAO) serving as moderator.

The recording is available here and the presentation here.

Designing social protection insurance schemes to benefit rural women.

The webinar began with the panelists introducing their roles in closing the gender gap with reference to countries in Asia and in Africa. Christina Dankmeyer, began by speaking of the cases regarding India, answering the question as to ‘why woman are the prime beneficiaries of insurance programmes’. She explained that woman face different risks and challenges in developing countries. An example being that ‘Women work less in paid employment, and when they do, it’s usually for lower pay and benefits than men’.

She went on to mention key insurance programmes that have proved effective in countering such challenges:

  1. Cooperative-driven health cover in India (VimoSEWA)
  2. Compulsory health cover in Jordan
  3. Micro insurance mutual funds in the Philippines

This raised the assumption that in order to regulate the challenges faced by woman, organisations need to design functioning and realistic insurance programmes catering to woman by:

  1. Collecting and analysing inclusive insurance sex-disaggregated data on both the supply and demand side.
  2. Promoting gender diversity not only among regulators but also in the insurance industry.
  3. Making financial literacy programmes more responsive to women clients.
  4. Supporting regulatory environments for research on new products and distribution channels to target women clients.
  5. Addressing other legal and policy constraints that indirectly limit access and usage to insurance for women.



The third presenter Mr Dubreuil, presented a similar view point, reiterating how woman are more vulnerable to shocks as they have less access and control over resources. He later presented the R4 approach, which aims to eliminate the obstacles for women to access climate risk management services by designing mechanisms that enable involvement in the different components.

  • Step 1: Risk taking: easing the norms for participation in community activities; focusing on individual assets;
  • Step 2: Risk Transfer: designing products that consider a women’s perspective and circumstances; designing and delivering through women groups (e.g. Senegal); promoting women’s access to mobile technology;
  • Step 3: Risk reserves: designing savings mechanisms that are appropriate to women (low income, low mobility) while progressively removing the barriers to accessing formal financial services;
  • Step 4: Risk taking: focusing on ‘Insurance Gender Approaches’ appropriate for women; technical/business support and financial education; and progressively addressing the barriers to accessing credit.

He went on to highlight how the World food Programme’s ability to achieve its strategic objectives, depends on its capacity to deliver food assistance that addresses the different needs and priorities of the women, men, girls and boys, whom it serves. This was underlined by four guiding principles:

  • Food assistance adapted to different needs
  • Equal participation (from design to implementation and monitoring)
  • Decision making by women & girls
  • Gender & protection

The Self-Employed Woman Association (SEWA), serves 1.5million women with more than ten insurance products. The goal of this insurance policy initiative is to create a tool in the form of a financial security to help evade unforeseeable crisis.

The webinar closed with the moderator presenting the Q&A session:  

  1. What are the key opportunities, challenges and potential entry points for different insurance stakeholders to increase women’s access to affordable insurance through social protection? 
  2. Following the experience with communities in Ethiopia, what kind of roles do national institutions play in eradicating gender targeting programmes?
  3. How can gender-sensitive insurance schemes be best integrated into national social protection systems and/or programmes?


Stay tuned for the next webinar: What role can social protection play in responding to humanitarian emergencies? Findings from a global study


Watch the webinar recording here!

This blog post is published as part of the Webinar Series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organised by and partners on a variety of themes related to social protection. If you have any thoughts on the topic discussed, we would love to hear them. Please add your comments below and we will get back to you.