MADISON, Wis.—World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has launched a new initiative to help women in developing countries build their leadership capacity. Through the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, WOCCU is raising funds through the newly established Global Women's Leadership Initiative, a network of women credit union leaders, to support women inhibited by financial hardship in developing countries.
Funds raised through the initiative, launched to coincide with International Women's Day March 8, will be used to provide women in need with educational opportunities and expand local microfinance efforts in developing countries. For complete information, visit www.woccu.org/involved/womensleadership.
The initiative is led both by WOCCU and the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA), which offers educational resources and information about women worldwide through its website www.coopscanada.coop/global/articles.cfm. Both organizations are dedicating efforts to provide women in developed and developing countries with greater access to credit union resources that will enable them to lead their communities.
"Women are often the vital link between credit unions and their communities in developing countries," said Brian Branch, WOCCU's executive vice president and COO. "Despite social obstacles many of them face, women lead in the economic development of their communities and manage their families' financial wellbeing."
In countries like Sri Lanka, for example, a new relationship between WOCCU and Women's Bank, a financial cooperative owned and operated entirely by women, is hard at work providing financing and education to women farmers. In addition to offering members loans and savings accounts, the cooperative also guarantees funding for groups comprised of elderly women and those in greatest need, helping many who would otherwise be destitute earn a living.
In Afghanistan, women are still subject to social restrictions under Muslim law. Yet many women have begun working with Islamic investment and financial cooperatives, which is how the country refers to its credit unions, to secure the small loans they need to start micro businesses. As a result, more Afghani women have created economically sustainable lives for themselves and their families.
The Global Women's Leadership Initiative is designed to support such global efforts. By harnessing the influence, experience and involvement of credit union women leaders from both developed and developing countries, WOCCU and CCA hope women will better serve as leaders within their respective communities, according to Susan Mitchell, CEO of O'Rourke, Mitchell & Associates, San Francisco, Calif., USA, and an advisor to the program.
"My work with the Global Women's Leadership Initiative allows me to speak to both genders about the importance of women's roles in creating strong societies," Mitchell stressed. "This effort will allow us to create a network among credit union leaders that truly makes a difference. This is the right time to launch such an initiative because we have the voice, we are visible and it's our chance as leaders to expand the good work done through financial cooperatives for the benefit of people worldwide."
Funds donated through the initiative will support development and education efforts, including scholarships to the peer learning session and day-long forum to be held in conjunction with WOCCU's World Credit Union Conference on July 30 in Barcelona, Spain. As the effort grows, additional networking opportunities will be scheduled.
Participation in the Global Women's Leadership Forum is by invitation only, and is especially designed to tap the leadership experience of women credit union CEOs and executive team members; retired women credit union executives; women credit union volunteers; and women executives of credit union partner organizations. However, financial contributions to the initiatives' goals and objectives are graciously accepted from anyone wishing to support women's leadership development in developing countries. Contact Valerie Breunig at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
"In addition to being a wonderful way to celebrate International Women's Day, I expect the Global Women's Leadership Initiative to become an important force in helping women in developing countries become financially empowered," Branch added.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.