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World-First Financial Product Combining Insurance and Cash Payments for Extreme Heat is a Lifeline for 50,000 Informal Women Workers in India 

Women report food security, credit worthiness, and a renewed sense of dignity 

June 12, 2024 - Communities from California to Mumbai are reeling from the impacts of extreme heat, bringing sectors to a standstill, from education to manufacturing. With heat extremes expected to last longer and occur more frequently, significant adaptation and climate resilience is needed to sustain healthy insurance markets. Today a financial protection product that combines insurance, cash for lost income and soon, an early warning system, secures livelihoods for 50,000 low-income women in India, offering a renewed hope that alongside efforts to mitigate climate impacts, adapting to a warmer world is feasible.  

Extreme heat temperatures in India triggered insurance and cash payments in 22 districts across the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat totaling almost $600,000. Ninety-two percent (46,242) of the 50,000 women in 16 districts of Rajasthan and Gujarat enrolled in the Women’s Climate Shock Insurance and Livelihoods Initiative (WCS) received insurance payments from the $341,553 (2.84 crores). The highest insurance payout was in Dungarpur district of $19.80 per member, and an average insurance payout of $7.38 in the other districts. All enrolled members received ~$5.00 in cash assistance given that every district reached 40°C/104°F. 

The WCS product is currently offered to women of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) working across the informal sector, whose outdoor work can lead to chronic rashes, dizziness, burns, infections, and miscarriage, as well as loss of crops or merchandise that results in economic disaster at a household level. Several members of SEWA tragically lost their lives to extreme heat in May 2024. 

Arunaben Makwana, a SEWA member said, “The money from the program has allowed me to pay for my medical expenses and to buy food for my family.” 

Considering the impacts of climate change, extreme heat, drought, floods, and fires will be exponentially more intense in a world that is 1.5C hotter, innovation and immediate solutions are desperately needed for vulnerable populations. To protect the investments of the past 30 years in poverty alleviation, climate protection is essential for the world’s working poor. The World Bank reported in 2021 that up to 130 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030.  
 

“This is the first time that insurance payouts and a direct cash assistance program have been combined to supplement the income of women when it’s dangerously hot,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, CEO of Climate Resilience for All. “There is one thing pushing SEWA women further into poverty and that is climate change – this program offers choice and opportunity in spite of extreme heat.” 

The WCS product was designed by a not-for-profit organisation, Climate Resilience for All, in partnership with SEWA, with almost three million members across India, and is underwritten by global reinsurer, Swiss Re. The insurance is provided locally by ICICI Lombard. 

“The money our sisters have received through this package of insurance money and income supplement is putting food on the table and protecting the little income they bring. One day of support is feeding their families for a week. This program offers peace of mind and options for our members” said Reema Nanavaty, Director of SEWA. 

The plan is to roll the WCS product out to communities across India, East and West Africa in the coming year or so and to encourage governments and business to support efforts to scale this work more rapidly, to ensure women – and the local economies they fuel – are able to adapt to a changing climate, protect their health, sustain their livelihoods, continue to educate their children, and avert becoming new extreme poverty statistics. Every dollar invested in women’s health yields three in economic activity. 

“I'm proud that Swiss Re's technical expertise was behind the design and structuring of this innovative parametric microinsurance solution. It's fulfilling of our purpose to build resilience, that over 46'000 women have benefited from our earnings protection cover following the recent extreme heat waves in India," said Veronica Scotti, Chair of Public Sector Solutions at Swiss Re.  

 

ENDS 

 

Media Contact: Geraldine Henrich-Koenis, Chief Communications Officer, geraldine@climateresilience.org    

Climate Resilience for All is a global NGO working to protect the health and livelihoods of women and vulnerable communities from the impacts of extreme heat.    
 
The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a national trade Union working to improve the livelihoods of its of 2.8 million self-employed women members from 18 states in India working in the informal sector.   

Swiss Re is one of the world's leading providers of reinsurance, insurance, and other forms of insurance-based risk transfer, working to make the world more resilient. 

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