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The Canadian Co-operative Association's presence in Malawi is largely focused on building capacity in the co-operative financial system while putting emphasis on community outreach and social programing. 


While the work of interns and coaches is greatly appreciated here, the real execution and success is credited to leaders like Itai who empower their staff to make a difference and mobilize community members to shift cultural or social norms to overcome their economic hardships.

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30th Annual Directors' Forum Returns in the Fall!

The 2014 "Growing Together" Directors' Forum Conference is set to take place October 3rd and 4th at the Courtyard by Marriott, Downtown Toronto. Registration opens online on March 10th.  


For more information, contact Audrey Aczel or at 1.888.745.5521 x.24


Bev Maximum and former WMP participants
Global Co-operator Award

Do you know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the international development work of the Canadian
Co-operative Association or the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada?  
If so, why not nominate them for CCA's Global
Co-operator Award!


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Volume 8 Number 04, March 6, 2014

With the theme of this year's Women's Day (March 8) being 'Inspiring Change", we wanted to share the story of two Women's Mentorship Program alumnae from Malawi. These women are inspiring change not only in their credit unions but also their communities.   


Thank you to CCA intern Lacey Chyz for writing this month's Dispatch.

Three Success Factors for a Stronger Financial System in the Developing World


They all look so sharp, in perfectly tailored outfits matching their magnetic personalities and management positions. Each woman is unique with her own leadership style and ambitions but nonetheless they all exude confidence and kindness. Working alongside these amazing women managers I've become even more passionate about the potential of Savings And Credit Co-Operatives (SACCO) in southern Africa.


In studying what makes some SACCOs more successful than others, I've concluded there are three factors which greatly contribute to their success. 

Elizabeth Chinjala, Account Manager Lilongwe Urban Teachers SACCO

1.  The inclusion and empowerment of female leaders


Malawi has 42 active SACCOs and to date more than 19 women have participated The Canadian Co-operative Association's Women's Mentorship Program (WMP), which Elizabeth Chinjala describes as a "personal and professional life changing journey." 


Elizabeth started as a data entry clerk at Lilongwe Urban Teachers SACCO fresh out of Lilongwe Technical College. In her eleven years of service she has rotated through accounting and loans officer positions, landing as the accounts and office supervisor of 5 staff.


In 2013 she was invited to Canada to participate in the overseas program and believes her success back in Malawi comes from the empowerment she received from Copperfin Credit Union in Thunder Bay, ON. Elizabeth lights up talking about her host who wrote a letter highlighting her talents and passion, encouraging her largely male-dominated board of directors to have faith in her leadership and witness the drastic improvements that would come with it.


When asked about her personal goals Elizabeth says "It is my desire that this movement push forward for the better, we have been in darkness too long," with a sparkle in her eye that reminds me this woman has serious work to do.


2.  Networking and sharing lessons learned


Networking can enhance a woman's sense of belonging and encourage her to come out of her shell, but it's much more than that.  Canadian credit union hosts have been very supportive in sharing their policies and providing technical assistance for 'in-house' controls and the results have been undeniable.


Delinquency rates at Lilongwe Urban Teachers SACCO were at 6% in 2012 and dropped to 1% in just over a year. Elizabeth says this change came from modifying lending practices to include the 5 Cs of credit and involving members through financial literacy initiatives.


Grace Modekayi, manager at Auction Holdings Ltd. Employees SACCO joined the WMP program in 2010 and even four years later she is drawing on member engagement ideas from her visit to Canada. "It was so impactful to learn from other managers who understand your culture and want to see you succeed, I still keep in touch with some of the other African leaders."


Grace also gives high praise to the CCA facilitators Bev Maxim and Laurie Tennian who fostered the caring and sharing atmosphere that generated so many solutions to everyday inefficiencies. "We need to learn from your experiences and be inspired and encouraged by the growth, size and management of your credit unions."


All of the managers agreed some of the most meaningful changes were small adjustments like respecting privacy and confidentiality of members leading to stronger, more honest member relations. 


3. Innovation and member participation 


Co-operatives are powerful agents for economic empowerment. SACCOs  across Malawi have been forming and training small groups of 30 people or less who save together and take turns borrowing money from the collective savings. These Groups Savings and Loans Associations (GSLAs) are a tool that has mobilized savings for even the poorest rural resident; in communities where many members are illiterate, they use a system of stamps, rather than numbers so that financial services are 100% accessible to everyone. The group acts as one member allowing participants to benefit from the SACCO's financial services even if they are unable to pay the membership fee by themselves. Group members are also able to become individual SACCO members as well for more options and opportunities.


Their small groups have become platforms for SACCO messages and services, gender mainstreaming, farming study circles and so much more. They began as opportunities to save for mattresses and mosquito nets and members have begun opening up profitable businesses like fueling stations and taxi services. Their success wasn't just about accessing affordable credit; it was about an understanding and discipline for savings.


Their operations are guided by the universal principles that encourage people all over the world to help themselves and their neighbors. Strong management skills and commitment to member inclusion will accelerate how SACCOs adapt to meet the needs of their communities. With graduates of the Women's Mentorship Program and like-minded managers across Africa, Asia and the Americas the financial systems we see in the 'developing world' today will be history in just one generation. 


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This publication is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through
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