Behind the Wheel: Women Driving the Pacific’s First Parametric Microinsurance Product

  • October 07, 2021

  • Suva, Fiji

Krishnan Narasimhan
Programme Manager
Pacific Insurance and Climate Adaptation Programme


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Earlier this year, I was pleasantly surprised by an invitation to be the only male panelist in the InsurResilience Live Talk held on March 12 entitled: “Gender, Climate, and Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance.” I was inspired by the discussions which led me to start thinking practically about linking gender inclusion practices within the Pacific Insurance and Climate Adaptation Programme (PICAP) that I’m currently spearheading.

Using a cross-cutting approach, PICAP’s design emphasizes the inclusion of women, youth, and disabled individuals within its practices focusing on specific livelihood sectors namely: Agriculture, fisheries, retail, and tourism.

The Live Talk prompted a series of affirmative actions to successfully integrate a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion approach within the programme. The latest 2020 financial inclusion data from Fiji indicates a 7% gap between women and men’s access to formal banking; for the rest of Pacific the gap is larger.

Besides several post-disaster assessments and studies reveal that women and people with disabilities are disproportionately affected and do not receive adequate relief and compensation. The programmatic Gender Equality and Social Inclusion approach is to narrow the gap, the first action plan triggered is highlighted in this blog.

Identify, Build and Develop Women Leadership in Project Partners

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) adopts a market systems development approach where its actions and activities catalyze the market players, including regulators, policy makers, financial and digital service providers, and financial literacy service providers.

It was therefore crucial for the team creating the climate and disaster risk insurance products to identify and develop the capacities of women within UNCDF’s partner organizations.
By empowering women, and with UNCDF’s support through grants, funding, and technical assistance, the Programme enables its partners to deliver concrete gender inclusive outputs.

After all, who better than empowered women to lead other women towards the gender inclusive programme benefits?

Speaking of empowered women, I have the pleasure of introducing women leaders associated with the UNCDF’s Pacific Insurance and Climate Adaptation Programme (PICAP) and its partner organizations. It is their championing of a gender inclusive implementation approach that aptly demonstrates the importance of ‘Working Together to Leave No One behind in this Digital Era.’

Michelle Reddy: Fund Manager of the Women’s Fund (Fiji). She also serves on the Technical Advisory Committee of PICAP. Her contribution has been invaluable in reviewing the gender equality and social inclusion approach of the programme and its related projects.

Losana Kumar: Project Lead within the Cane Farmers Co-operative Savings and Loans Association Limited (CCSLA). CCSLA is a grassroots community-based cooperative that offers value-based basic financial services like savings and loans to cane farmers, fishers, market vendors and informal workers. A sizeable proportion of its over 4,000 members are women, and CCSLA is actively enrolling its members into the first parametric microinsurance product launched in Fiji on 25th August 2021. Losana is coordinating the UNCDF grant supported project and is coordinating all project related activities with promising early results.

Shivasna Sivan and Sheetal Chetty: Representatives of the Sugar Cane Grower’s Council and are part of the project team that is collaborating with PICAP in extending the parametric microinsurance product to sugarcane farmers who are members of the Grower’s Council. They are directly interacting and educating women, bringing a refreshing change among rural farming communities in building awareness on disaster risk resilience. This is in addition to their regular jobs in Finance and Legal respectively.

Seema Shandil: Chief Executive of the Consumer Council of Fiji (CCF) - an independent statutory body that acts as a consumer watchdog to protect the interests and rights of consumers. CCF is an advocacy partner of PICAP and Seema has been personally engaged in building this partnership and getting her team to strongly deliver appropriate awareness and messaging to consumers.

Talei Rokotuibau: General Manager of the Tailevu Dairy Farmers Cooperative Association Limited, a UNCDF grant partner. Talei is leading the traditional member-based cooperative to embrace technology and embark on a digital transformation to offer better and varied services to farmers. She is also passionately advocating for cooperative members to join the parametric microinsurance scheme and is already making a difference to the ongoing efforts by registering the initial cohort of members.

Jotishma Chand: Accountant/Board Secretary of the Fiji Rice Limited (FRL). Already familiar with the bundled microinsurance for farmers that covers term life, funeral, fire, and personal accident insurance, Jotishma is now leading FRL’s efforts in enrolling rice farmers into the parametric microinsurance scheme. She has seen the impact of past cyclones on the lives and livelihoods of rice farmers and is convinced that climate and disaster risk insurance solutions hold promise in offering immediate recovery and response support to those affected.

Krishika Narayan: Chief Operating Officer of FijiCare Insurance Limited and former Chief Executive Officer of the South Pacific Stock Exchange. FijiCare is the lead insurance company underwriting the parametric microinsurance product now being promoted in Fiji. She leads the team within FijiCare and coordinates underwriting, customer engagement and claims administration while also managing external partnerships with distribution partners. She has been actively engaged in building the internal capacity of FijiCare to take on this new portfolio of climate and disaster risk insurance.

Neha Batra: Lead Climate Risk Model Developer with Weather Risk Management Services, a global India-based firm and technical partner for the programme engaged to develop the regional weather risk model and a suite of parametric insurance products for the Pacific. Working long hours even amidst the pandemic challenges in India, Neha delivered on the promise to have the Pacific region’s first parametric microinsurance product ready for launch on 25th August 2021.

The Programme’s early results are largely attributed to the significant contributions of these amazing women who, having assumed leadership roles within their project teams, are firmly steering us towards success.

I plan to write about the sterling contributions being made by my women colleagues from UNCDF, UNDP and UNU-EHS in the follow on piece.

Watch this space for more.