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7 CU women examine co-ops run by women in Chile Peru
LIMA, Peru (4/11/08)--Seven women credit union leaders from the U.S. and Canada traveled throughout Peru and Chile this week to visit cooperatives managed by women and learn about credit unions' efforts to increase women's access to finance. The visit was part of a World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) study trip.
Participants in the World Council of Credit Unions' Women's Leadership Engagement Program were, from left: front row: WOCCU's Mark Cifuentes, vice president of technical services, and Brian Branch, chief operating officer; (standing) Mary Cunningham; Sue Albrecht; Jo-Anne Ferguson; Val Breunig; Sylvia Lyon; Catherine Roberts; Penny Reeves; and Winona Nava. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
“All around the world, WOCCU applies market-driven solutions to provide access to finance for those without access,“ said trip leader Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. "Assisting credit unions in providing women access to products and services matching their needs and circumstances has always been part of our strategy. This group is taking us a step further, identifying strategies that WOCCU and participating credit unions can use to develop leadership opportunities for women in the global credit union system.“ Joining Branch and other staff on WOCCU's Women's Leadership Engagement Program this week were: Susan Albrecht, senior vice president, international division, CUNA Mutual Group; Mary Cunningham, president/CEO, USA FCU; Jo-Anne Ferguson, senior director, international development, Canadian Co-operative Association; Sylvia Lyon, president/CEO, Credit Union Association of New Mexico; Winona Nava, president/CEO, Guadalupe CU; Penny Reeves, director, Credit Union Central of Canada and WOCCU board member; and Catherine Roberts, president/CEO, Community Choice CU and WOCCU board secretary. During their weeklong travels, the delegation visited US$4.8 million asset, 8,626-member San Francisco de Huánuco CU, which joined WOCCU's Peru program last July. The group also traveled to Santiago, Chile and visited $1.2 billion asset Coopeuch CU, one of Latin America's largest credit unions. Coopeuch serves more than 370,000 members via 73 branches throughout Chile. WOCCU is implementing and partially funding a three-year (2006-09) technical assistance program in Peru, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and contributions from the National Federation of Peruvian Credit Unions (FENACREP). The program goal is to increase income and wealth generation for poor households through improvements in financial services and greater market access for their products. Opportunities for value-chain financing, a method by which financial support is provided along a specific product's development “chain“ from manufacture or planting to final sale, is also part of WOCCU's focus in Peru. Poor women in developing countries face obstacles to economic and social advancement, including denial of access to education, healthcare, ownership rights and capital, according to the International Center for Research on Women. The WOCCU program's efforts to increase women's access to financial services by introducing targeted products that respond to market demand is one of the best ways to combat rural poverty, according to Luis Jiménez, director of WOCCU's program in Peru. Crece Mujer (Grow Woman), a group-lending initiative for poor women who are microentrepreneurs in rural areas, is being introduced in several of Peru's nine program credit unions. The “collateral“ for loans is the solidarity among the group members to cover each other's weekly repayments should anyone falter. The delinquency rate remains at 0% in two credit unions that have offered group lending since October 2007. The WOCCU program helped another of the participating credit unions launch an urban individual microcredit product for micro-entrepreneurs. The credit union has new member growth, reduced delinquency and is more profitable as a result. According to Manuel Rabines, general manager of FENACREP and second vice president of the WOCCU board, 168 FENACREP-affiliated credit unions serve 674,000 members as of December 2007. The credit unions had $758 million in assets and held a 2.3% share of Peru's national financial system's credit and 1.9% of the deposit market.
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