Posted by Praveen Prasad, WAM NY Chair
It was wonderful to spend some time with Caroline and learn of her work, future goals and her experiences. Ms. Carolyn Jalang’o, who hails from Kenya, was one of our recipients from the 2012 scholarship initiative. Caroline, is a leader and champion in promoting leadership and financial independence for rural women through her work in microfinance.
Firstly, Caroline welcome to WAM NY again! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in a small village in Siaya County as a third child to a small peasant family. I am 42 now. At the age of two years my parents broke up, and I was brought up under the care of my father with his second wife, a life that was not very interesting especially in the African setup.
My early years were marred with uncertainty, but I managed to wade through to high school in the year 1984, I joined senior school. In 1987 I graduated from senior school with a pass, my dream of joining pre university school were cut short when my father could not raise the fees. I worked as a un trained teacher in a nearby primary school for 2 years after which the contract ended. Having no proper education and no means to higher education I then got married at the age of 20 year, lived with my husband for 5 years then I became a widow at the age of 26 years. During all this time my desire for higher education never died, and I enrolled for vocational trainings which saw me through to certified Public Accountant which I now hold, and which has continued to open doors for me to do other short courses to get my skills sharpened to the position I hold now.
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What is your current role in your organization and what would be some of you your responsibilities?
I am working as a program administrative officer, and financial manager. I am in charge of ensuring that projects/programmes are running on schedule and within their limited budgets, I also give a monthly financial status to the directors and board for further scrutiny and decision making, prepare financial returns to the donors and I sit in the decision making committee of the organization. I am also the treasurer to the board of directors, and give quarterly updates on the financial/administrative matters. I support the MFI programs with technical advice. I have worked for several years in various places but the last three years I have worked more for MFI institutions and here (Gender Environment and Sustainable Development-GESD) more as a volunteer, than a permanent employee.
How is your organization helping make a difference in your community and region?
Our organization focuses on women and youth groups who are very vulnerable in our society/community. By giving them a voice through the creation of wealth, and income. In so doing we are working to reduce the level of poverty amongst this community through economic empowerment.
We are currently piloting the use of Mobile phone to share information to our MFI users, by disseminating information on markets, health, and education through Community Knowledge workers (CKW)
You were one of the 5 scholarship recipients given by WAM NY’s. Please share how you benefitted from the scholarship, both personally and professionally?
Before the scholarship I did worked as an accountant with an MFI dealing with money my. As my first priority was accountability, the impact was not much on women. I wanted to know, more about micro finance. When I got the scholarship and went to Accra I learnt a lot about MFI’s such as client protection, social performance, quality of the portfolio. Through this training I can now perform due diligence of an MFI, advice clients, I encourage the community to practice VSAL, I helped the street vendors in our town to start a model of SUSU which I learnt in Ghana. I provide support to groups starting with saving; I am able to connect them to other groups for learning purposes. As a member of Rotary international, our club had benefited with my knowledge and I have served as the director of projects which has seen me play important role in setting structures for communities in D9200 to benefit from Rotary Club and Oiko Credit MFI venture.
My knowledge for MFI and women has improved, I give a lot of support to any MFI around me, I always stop by their programs to encourage them. I have just developed a passion for MFI, now am dying to know to involve the youth in MFI, what products suit them, how to entice them as future leaders to embrace MFI.
What do you think are the leadership challenges women face in their professional growth and development?
I think women face discrimination based on their gender and opportunities to progress in their carriers are sometimes hindered due to many other duties that the women need to take care of. Women face gender biases and discrimination based on their societal roles such as changing and demanding roles emerging for women as professional, mothers, and family heads. Cultures- Culture tend to deny women opportunity to be leaders, so they suppress them
What are your future plans?
My plans are to take complete the Certified Public Accountant course. I have 6 units left to the final level. I have also for the SMDP course 2012 class to Pursue Pro poor Enterprise and Value Chain Development and Youth Inclusive Financial Services. I have also enrolled for 13 month Masters in Arts and Development Policy and Practice (MADPP) in the UNH this coming May 2012 in Durham; This is still in the developing stages of sourcing for financial aid. I also plan to attend conferences on women and MFI to share experiences and bring better practices home to our communities and I want to also keep the pace with my work at the community.
What advice would you give to women who are thinking about joining the microfinance profession?
I would encourage women and tell them that economic empowerment is the road to social independence and that they should grasp the idea of microfinance, as a way of wealth creation and savings for a better future.
Is there a message you would like to send to all the supporters of WAM NY’s fundraiser who helped make the scholarship initiative such a big success?
Without them [WAM NY] I would not have made it honestly, I would not have received the knowledge that I am now so hungry about and want to get more of. They are doing a great job and empowering women. May they continue.doing so!
WAM NY Marketing Committee.