Credit union leaders focus on sector challenges

30 Apr 2012

Women in Africa recently compared their credit unions to those in North America, and found the businesses were not so different.
In an initiative organised by the World Council of Credit Unions and the Canadian Co-operative Association, 20 women credit union leaders from 16 countries across Africa gathered in Botswana to share their experiences of working in the sector along with five delegates from credit unions in North America.
Hosted by the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings & Credit Associations (ACCOSCA), the two-day Africa Women's Forum allowed participants to share their workplace challenges and successes, and their experiences helping other women to succeed.
In an environment of male dominated boards and cultural barriers holding back women who want to take on leadership positions, the Forum helped delegates gain confidence in their workplace.
Dorothy Namirembe, Administrative Manager with the Y-Save Savings and Credit Co-operative (SACCO) in Kampala, Uganda, said she had constantly encouraged her Chief Executive to introduce job rotations to allow staff to gain new skills through the financial co-operative.
Following the meeting, this has now changed: "As women we are going to another level. I am so grateful that, through this Forum, change is already coming to my own SACCO. After the Forum I have been promised we are having rotations."
Monique Dunbar, training and development manager for US$35 million Communicating Arts Credit Union in Detroit, had never met anyone like Ma Hooud, a village elder and treasurer for the Morwa Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO): "She commands great respect in her village. The women I met in Africa are so strong, so proud and so resolute that I came away from the experience inspired to succeed."
Kam Raman, Assistant Vice-President, Sales and Member Experience at First West Credit Union, found that women in credit unions in Africa and Canada have more in common than one would think. "My presentation on product innovation morphed into a discussion about setting customer service standards and how to increase membership, things that also challenge us here in Canada," said Ms Raman.
Ms Raman also came away from the meeting with some new-found knowledge; one manager told her about how she keeps staff engaged in her credit union by holding a five minute meeting with them each morning to go over the work day ahead and to thank them for a job well done. Added Ms Raman: "It was an eye opener for me to see just how powerful grassroots approaches like this can be for staff."
While visiting a local credit union, Ms Raman said she was moved she was by the simple things that people use credit union loans for: "One woman in a small rural SACCO told me the latest loan she received from her credit union was to buy a blanket for her daughter because she had heard it was cold in Ireland where her daughter was going to attend medical school."
Picture: Village elder Ma Hooud with Monique Dunbar

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