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The second edition of the forum “Proyecto Capital: 10 Years Merging Social Protection and Financial Inclusion” was held on August 15, 16 and 17 in Puebla, Mexico. The event was co-organized with PROSPERA (Mexico’s Conditional Cash Transfer program) with the purpose of sharing results and lessons learned from this initiative.

Proyecto Capital promotes, designs and supports the implementation of practices and policies for financial inclusion that are linked to social protection systems, particularly Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs. It aims to guarantee access to formal financial services but above all to encourage people to use these services and ensure that they are of high quality. Solutions are adapted to the context of each country.

The organizations that have been responsible for implementing the project over the past 10 years are Fundación Capital and the Institute for Peruvian Studies, in collaboration with and thanks to funding from the Ford Foundation and the IDRC (International Development Research Centre) of Canada.

Among the participants at the event were Under Secretary of Planning, Evaluation and Regional Development Javier García Bejos, Secretary of Social Development representative Eviel Pérez Magaña and National Coordinator of PROSPERA Jaime Gutiérrez Casas, all of whom shared what it was like for PROSPERA to have the participants of its programs get involved in productive projects and be provided with employment options and financial services.

One of the main topics was the relevance of CCT program participants’ access to and use of savings accounts as a way to accumulate money and therefore build, protect and grow their financial assets.

Carolina Robino from the IDRC highlighted the project’s most important lasting achievements, including the research that was carried out, the focus on savings, collaboration with the National Financial Inclusion Strategies (Spanish acronym ENIF), the role of innovation and technology, the involvement of diverse actors and peer learning.

Nevertheless, the project has not been free from errors. As Carolina Trivell pointed out: “We have a long way to go to be able to demonstrate what opening an account means for women, and that’s the real goal. We can’t be satisfied just because they use their accounts, we need to know if this actually transforms lives and we have done little research on how financial inclusion has changed women’s lives.”

Also at the event was BBVA Microfinance Foundation President Claudio Gonzalez-Vega who gave a keynote speech on the challenges of financial inclusion and the importance of building close relationships with bank customers. This means getting to know them and helping them to repay loans according to their income, which could, for example, involve paying more during the harvest and close to nothing during the planting season.

However, Claudio did not make light of technology: “Getting to know clients and talking with them is something that digitalization cannot replace. Once we have gotten to know them, then we can start using technology to track results. You can’t get to know a client through a camera; you need contact. What we need to do is get close to clients.”

The event included panels on the challenges faced by CCT programs in their relationships with banks, innovation for financial services and channels, strengthening projects with a focus on gender, developing social inclusion within the PROSPERA program and knowledge sharing across the globe.

The discussion that had the greatest impact on the entire audience was without a doubt that facilitated by Any Benitez of Fundación Capital with the participation of four past and present receivers of CCTs. They were Antonia Ruíz from Querétaro, Mexico; Rosa María Pérez from Puebla, Mexico; Victoria Fernández from Coñachugo, Quirubilca, Peru and Agripina Perea Valencia from Cartagena, Colombia.

The panel discussion revealed the bravery and empowerment of these women, the effort they made to overcome hardship and how they had become model citizens in their communities.

Over the course of 10 years of close collaboration with 40 public and private institutions, Proyecto Capital supported the merging of financial inclusion and social protection programs in 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries and strengthened the financial skills of more than 5 million women in the region.

The program has demonstrated that financial inclusion not only changes lives, it creates more just societies where full economic citizenship is possible.

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