Women when empowered become agents of change

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 10:58:50 +0000

 

By ANNIE ZULU

WOMEN are agents of change and have great potential to make the world a better place if they are empowered, says FINCA Global Microfinance Network Chief Executive Officer Andrea Simon.

Ms Simon, who was recently in the country to inspect the operations of FINCA, noted that women, not only in Zambia but around the world were financially marginalised.

She told the Daily Nation in an interview that a lot of women had great business ideas, but that their ideas did not turn into reality because of lack of empowerment.

“Women are agents of change, they have the potential to bring change to this world, but sadly they lack that which is required to bring about that change which is empowerment.

“Most women have great ideas for business, but they do not have the finances, so usually their ideas end up dying. I believe that if women are empowered, they can do great things because they are more focussed and determined and will usually stop at nothing to achieve what they’ve set out to do,” Ms Simon.

In order to help women realise their potential, FINCA has stepped up with its savings, loan and value additional products and services as well as lending methods that are outstanding for women in Zambia.

FINCA offers an array of financial products and services to its clients including enterprise financing, saving, remittance services, micro insurance, rural/agriculture finance, sharia-compliant loans, micro-energy loans and financial education.

The Company started operations in Zambia in 2001, with headquarters in Lusaka and branches in Lusaka, Central, Southern, Eastern and Copperbelt provinces and ever since, FINCA has grown to become the biggest enterprise-lending Microfinance institution in the country both in portfolio and clientele.

The main objective of FINCA is to alleviate poverty through lasting solutions that help people especially women build assets, create jobs and raise their standards of living.

Ms Simon said her company in Zambia had pioneered village banking, which brings together groups of between 10-25 women in a community who guarantee small loans for each other.

She explained that the loans enable women to create income-generating opportunities which help them support themselves and their families.

“We are always committed to creating a world where opportunity is afforded to everyone. Our vision is to reach the working poor who are the women and those who have been excluded from the financial mainstream.

“We believe that through village banking, women will be able to achieve their goals and also support their families,” she said.

Ms Simon disclosed that FINCA was also offering more other products to business women to help them flourish in their business.

“From inception, we have touched a lot of women’s lives, through loans to help them grow in their business and most of them are going great,” she said.

She implored women to take advantage of the financials services that FINCA was offering to empower themselves.

And Ms Simon encouraged women to aim for leadership positions in financial institutions and never look down on themselves so that the 2030 gender parity could be attained.

She said women too could make it in the financial sector just as their male counterparts.

“Women need to get out of their comfort zones and take up leadership positions, I believe they could bring in a level of motherly touch which is need in the sector,” she said.

Ms. Simon has more than 20 years of experience in economic development and inclusive financial services. Since 2013, when she became CEO of FINCA, she has been spearheading new product development and a shift towards a lower-cost business model that leverages new technology and credit scoring methodologies.

Prior to this, she was President and CEO of Women for Women International, an organisation dedicated to creating sustainable livelihoods and change for women in conflict.

She has also held various business and advisory roles in other organisations, including the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Marakon, and Women Advancing Microfinance International. Additionally, she is an Adjunct Professor in Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Ms. Simon holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Virginia, an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

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