International Development Programs
The Global Women's Leadership Network supports World Council development initiatives that further the vision and mission of the Network. In 2013, international development programs were carried out in Kenya, Liberia and Mexico. Each of these programs provides financial services to underserved women in the community.
When World Council's United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded program, "Mitigating the Impact of HIV/AIDS on Economic Growth through Credit Union Modernization," closed in 2010, World Council maintained its partnership with the Busia Compassionate Centre in Kenya. World Council has continued to provide the orphanage with access to reliable food resources and education scholarships as it had under the donor-funded program. Scholarships were provided to 31 orphans, 19 of whom were girls. In 2013, the partnership is focused on establishing self-sustainability and started this process by constructing new facilities. The new facilities offer safe and hygienic place to live, play, and study that includes running water, a septic system, electricity. The new orphanage sits on 3.5 acres of land - enough to garden, grow crops and tend to a small farm. The Global Women's Leadership Network furthered the self-sustainability efforts by supporting the construction as well as financial education for orphanage students, volunteers, and community caregivers, who are predominantly women.
"MicroLead Liberia: Credit Union Revitalization in Liberia" is World Council's newest project. Funded by the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the project targets small micro-entrepreneurs as well as rural women and farmers, who are typically excluded from formal financial services. Women will be served using a solidarity group methodology that respect local knowledge and values and encourages group accountability and self-enforcement. This strategy protects the cohesiveness of existing savings and loan groups while linking them to more formal regional credit unions that can offer a wider variety of savings and loan products. This goal of this project is to serve 60% women savers and 60% women depositors by 2017.
World Council's "Technical Assistance, Training and Support to the Mexican Savings and Credit Cooperative Sector for the Expansion and Improvement of Financial Services in Underserved Communities" project serves the most marginalized populations in the country. The project teaches credit unions how to expand outreach by bringing digital services to rural communities rather than waiting for rural community members to come into urban areas. One of the project's goals is to serve at least 50% women through this project. To date, the project has reached 39,948 women, surpassing the goal by serving 54.15% women members.
Leveraging support from a USAID Leader with Associates-funded program, World Council also conducted research in Mexico to identify the obstacles to women's leadership in credit unions. The results indicate that there are relatively comparable percentages of women and men in general management positions but men tend to occupy more top executive and board positions than women. Those women that do fill CEO and board chair positions tend to be in smaller credit unions, particularly those in rural areas. Why? Small credit unions tend to have more unstructured hours, longer meetings, and greater technical or training requirements. These issues may affect women's participation more heavily than men where women are mothers and family care providers without a reliable and convenient support mechanism. Jobs or duties that require frequent travel, meetings that are frequent and time consuming (such as board meetings), training that is conducted off site, all require people to be absent from their homes and usually prove to be more problematic for women than for men. These challenges can drive the personal choice of time management between competing personal, family, community and work responsibilities. Not all women want or can take on the burden of credit union leadership responsibility as this may result in additional stress, time commitments or other trade-offs. This research is part of a larger global study, conducted in partnership with Filene Research Institute in 2013-2014.