ACCU International Women’s Day Celebration: Bridging the Gender Gap
The International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration, organized by the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU) on March 8, 2021, identified strategies to narrow the women’s economic and leadership gap.
On the theme “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” the online celebration was attended by 157 credit union leaders and employees from Australia, India, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and United States.
According to ACCU CEO Elenita San Roque, women seek membership in credit unions to access the capital they need for small businesses. These are unemployed or underemployed women hoping to create a means of livelihood to meet their financial needs. Women’s financial wellness of themselves and their families plays a vital role in narrowing the gap in gender-balanced leadership in credit unions.
According to UN-ESCAP, Asia and the Pacific has 1.2 billion poor at the higher international poverty line of $3.20 a day, accounting for more than a quarter of the region’s total population. Women represent more than 50% of the people living in poverty.
Discussions with the attendees revealed that the poverty situation has worsened because of the pandemic. “Majority of our members are the marginalized sector of the communities dependent on small businesses for their income or employed in the services sector. Lost revenues, limited social protection, and rising prices did not only affect the most vulnerable but as well as those who were previously secured,” shared CEO Josefina Cardona from the Philippines.
“Economic empowerment of women is critical to gender equity in leadership,” said an attendee from Mongolia, Battsetseg Togtoh. Credit unions need to provide support to entrepreneurship for women to be self-employed, she added.
“And when in the leadership positions, women should ensure they are making significant contributions in decisions impacting the well-being of the members. Women’s voices should count,” emphasized ACCU 2nd Vice President Soledad Cabangis. ACCU CEO couldn’t agree more. She said
women should be able to articulate the challenges affecting credit unions’ mission of improving people’s lives. The mission is always the anchor of every decision Board had to make.
The guest speaker from the World Council’s Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) Eleni Giakoumopoulos recommended starting a Sister Society (local chapter of the GWLN) to connect with peers, seek solutions, and work toward narrowing gender and inequality gaps. She also recommended sponsoring and encouraging the next generation of emerging female leaders and ensure professional development opportunities are available at all levels.
The IWD celebration identified practical action initiatives to promote gender-balance in all aspects of credit union operation. Attendees placed two significant recommendations: Offering training to build wo
men’s leadership capabilities and institutionalizing business development services for women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship. ACCU will develop tools its members can access to implement the recommendations.