Press Release: Microfinance Leaders Welcome Two New Members to Join Working Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2015

Contact: Maura Hart, +1 212 556 3156 or meh@womensworldbanking.org

WASHINGTON, DC – The Microfinance CEO Working Group welcomes two new members to their international collaboration: Lauren Hendricks, Executive Director of CARE’s Access Africa program, and Shameran Abed, Director of BRAC’s microfinance program. Tanzania-based Hendricks and Bangladesh-based Abed join the Working Group’s efforts to support the positive development of the microfinance industry, so the field can reach its full potential of bringing responsible microfinance and related services to those who have been traditionally excluded.

“The Microfinance CEO Working Group has worked hard to foster a diverse, collaborative and honest platform for advancing our industry’s mission to reach the 2.5 billion people around the world without access to the formal financial system. As leaders from BRAC and CARE’s Access Africa program, Shameran and Lauren complement our global perspective and bring innovative approaches to financial inclusion to our group. We’re thrilled to welcome them as new members, and they are already adding value and perspectives,” Mary Ellen Iskenderian, Co-Chair of the Microfinance CEO Working Group and President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

In early 2011, an informal group of industry leaders met to discuss the state of the microfinance sector as it matures and encounters new challenges. Participants quickly discovered a shared perspective on the future of the microfinance industry – one rooted in high standards, client orientation, transparency and collective action.

That group formalized to create the Microfinance CEO Working Group, which has spent the last four years advocating in support of responsible microfinance and championing promising ideas and solutions for the industry. Today, the Working Group’s networks collectively represent more than 230 microfinance institutions across nearly 75 countries serving more than 57 million clients. The group supports initiatives that are playing a major role in advancing responsible microfinance, including client protection, pricing transparency and the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management. The members of the Microfinance CEO Working Group also provide forums for collaboration and information sharing among like-minded allies, including investors, funders, regulators, researchers and the broader international development community.

Hendricks is the Executive Director of CARE’s Access Africa program. Launched in 2008 to advance financial inclusion across the continent, Access Africa was built on CARE’s nearly 20 years of experience harnessing the ancient practice of savings groups and creating a sustainable system of home-grown microfinance. CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are built entirely on member savings and interest from loans; they receive no direct capital investment from CARE. However, their members do receive a year of intensive training from CARE in group dynamics and governance and in money management. This training enables the groups to become self-supporting, to flourish and even to establish and train other groups. Today, the Access Africa program is reaching 4.2 million people across 26 countries in Africa.

“The Microfinance CEO Working Group is all about collaboration in a shared commitment to financial inclusion.  On behalf of CARE, I’m honored to join this diverse group of leaders to support sustainable and holistic solutions for the world’s poor,” said Hendricks.

Abed is the Director of the BRAC microfinance program, which serves more than five million clients in seven countries in Asia and Africa, and has total assets exceeding USD 1 billion. Starting its work in the early 1970s, BRAC was one of the first organizations to use the modern microfinance model of lending small amounts to groups of women.

Today, BRAC’s microfinance activities are offered through a unique “credit-plus” approach, addressing the special needs of various target populations such as rural women, youth and adolescents, landless poor, marginal farmers, migrant workers and small entrepreneurs. BRAC targets and develops customized financial products and services to best meet the varying needs of the poor.

“BRAC shares the Microfinance CEO Working Group’s commitment to promoting the best practices of our industry. This is an opportunity to collaborate with a group that embraces both the latest innovations and the trusted long-standing practices that bring financial tools and other resources to those who need them most,” said Abed.

Hendricks and Abed join the following leaders from founding member organizations of the Microfinance CEO Working Group: Michael Schlein, President and CEO of Accion; Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of FINCA International; Steve Hollingworth, President of Freedom from Hunger; Co-Chair Alex Counts, President and CEO of Grameen Foundation; David Simms, Global Chief Development Officer and President, Opportunity International, U.S.; Rosario Perez, President and CEO of Pro Mujer; Scott Brown, President and CEO of VisionFund International; and Co-Chair Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

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The Microfinance CEO Working Group is a collaborative effort by leaders from ten international organizations: Accion, BRAC, CARE, FINCA International, Freedom from Hunger, Grameen Foundation, Opportunity International, Pro Mujer, VisionFund International and Women’s World Banking. The Working Group seeks to support the microfinance industry in bringing a broad range of financial and related services to those who have traditionally been excluded. The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion serves as the secretariat for the Working Group.