Before the global health crisis, rural women in Colombia were already facing a challenging environment: high levels of poverty, domestic violence, informal work and a lack of income. Since 2020, the crisis has made them even more vulnerable and widened the gender gap in employment and jobless rates. The number of employed rural women fell from 1.4 million in 2019 to 1.1 million in 2020, with a growing number of female heads of household living with no income due to the crisis.
Quira Esthela López Bedoya, a yucca and cocoa producer, explains how the pandemic impacted her business: "At the beginning, it was really hard to continue marketing our products. The sidewalks were closed. They wouldn't let anyone in or out. That's when we were most affected by the pandemic. Things have kind of ground to a halt for everyone."
Empowering rural Colombian women
The PROFEM project aims to increase the economic and social empowerment of rural women and young people in Colombia, particularly through a financial literacy program and improved access to financial services tailored to their needs.
Through a partnership with the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the virtual economic and financial literacy program "Mis Finanzas Cuentan" (My finances count) was recently launched.
In concrete terms, this will allow women producers like Quira Esthela to better manage their family and business finances, assess the family's financial condition and financing needs, and understand the basics of agricultural lending and the technological tools currently available to them. The training also addresses issues of domestic violence.
The content of the program is accessible via a mobile phone and does not require permanent internet access. Women can go to a Wi-Fi hotspot, download the modules and complete them at home at their own pace. Learners can also access support via WhatsApp.