Posted by Praveen Prasad, WAM NY Chair
I am delighted to introduce Ms. Wilma Longdon, who was one of our scholarship recipients in 2011. She is also the dynamic executive director of WomensTrust, a 501(c) (3) organization based in Ghana. WomensTrust is a model to bring resources and community-based support directly to the developing world.
It was such a pleasure to interview Wilma, on her trip to New York recently where she was our guest speaker where she spoke about microlending which is the core of all WomensTrust programs. Through it, the organization has built relationships with the women of Pokuase in Ghana, come to understand their needs and wants, and implemented market driven programs that better serve them and their children.
1. Wilma, why don’t we begin by sharing with our readers and members a little about yourself and your background?
I am a Ghanaian, born and educated in Accra. I belong to a close knit family and have 3 siblings. My first degree was in Computer Science and Statistics at the University of Ghana and my second degree was in Information Systems at the London School of Economics. I worked in a bank in Ghana for a total of 8 years before my current employment.
2. Describe your current role in your organization
I am currently the executive director of WomensTrust in Ghana, responsible for the management of WomensTrust programmes.
3. How is your organization helping to make a difference in your community?
WomensTrust gives micro loans to women in Pokuase, a mid size town on the outskirts of Accra, the capital city. The loans provide capital to the women to increase their inventory, diversify their stocks and buy in bulk. This way, women are able to work themselves out of poverty and improve their living conditions for their families. WomensTrust employs a group-lending model that was introduced by the Grameen Bank in the 1980s. Potential clients form their own groups of four or five women and come to the WomensTrust office for an initial screening. In order to track impact, our staff records information about their businesses, their incomes, their families, their education, and their homes.
4. You were one of our 5 scholarship recipients. Please share how you benefitted from the scholarship, both personally and professionally?
The full scholarship from WAM made it possible for me to attend SMDP at no cost to WomensTrust, allowing the organisation to retain its program funds and channel it into loans for more women.
The rich course content of the Microfinance Essential Skills Track gave me a good understanding of the fundamental principles of microfinance as well as legal, regulatory and performance management concepts. The experiences shared by the course facilitators, who were practitioners, educators and policy makers, made the course even more meaningful.
5. What do you think are the leadership challenges women face in their professional growth and development?
The time to pursue further studies sometimes because of child care issues.
6. What advice would you give to women who are thinking about joining the microfinance profession?
They must not approach microfinance the same way as mainstream financial services. One must have a passion for social development and also be prepared to engage with clients more closely. Factors that may have negligible impact on the loan performance of clients in mainstream banking could have disastrous effects on microfinance clients.
7. 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?
It’s a great thing you’re doing. Keep it up, and know that your funds made a big difference in my organization. Your efforts will continue to help other organizations like WomensTrust to enhance the skills of their staff and provide better services to clients.
WAM NY Marketing Committee.