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  • Writer's pictureKelsie Papenhausen

Credit Union Women Make Pitch for $10,000 Empowerment Grants

2023 Athena Award also presented during GWLN events leading up to the World Credit Union Conference

VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Four Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) scholars gave presentations aimed at securing $10,000 grants that would allow them to implement credit union projects empowering women during Sunday’s GWLN Forum at the 2023 World Credit Union Conference.

The four scholars originally submitted Empowerment Grant proposals as part of the 2022 GWLN Scholarship nomination process but were unable to attend the 2022 World Credit Union Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, due to visa issues related to COVID-19.

The 2022 GWLN Scholarship recipients who made their pitches were:

  • Dorothy Mambulasa, Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives, Ltd., on increasing access to both finances and solar energy products at Fincoop SACCO.

  • Enkhchimeg Nergui, Partnership Specialist, Mongolian National Confederation of Credit Unions, on creating a local business ecosystem that allows credit union members that are part of yak and sheep herder communities to diversify their income and promote eco-friendly and sustainable cashmere production.

  • Violet Ndungu, CEO, Muki Sacco (Kenya), on promoting the commercialization of dairy farmers through strengthening and capacity building, increased dairy production, promoting new feed production technologies, and improving access to savings and loans for women and youth on dairy farms.

  • Polly Gathoni Waweru, Unisa Sacco Society Limited (Kenya): on creating a training program to promote women credit union empowerment by growing female membership, competencies’ building and leadership opportunities.

Each scholar got 15 minutes to make their pitch, with three presenting in person and Mambulasa submitting a video presentation.

“Attendees were encouraged to vote based on the creativity of each proposal, and how it addressed financial inclusion, sustainability, planning and the connection to GWLN,” said Eleni

The results will be announced after the 2023 World Credit Union Conference, with the top two vote getters each receiving $10,000 Empowerment Grants.

A conversation with change makers

GWLN Forum attendees were also treated to a panel discussion on “Women Leading: A Conversation with Change Makers”, moderated by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Program Manager Dalia Mehiar, and featuring WOCCU President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde.

The conversation centered around the theme of how to make credit unions and other workplaces in the industry more accessible to women who want to be leaders.

McCarter LaBorde said increasing access starts with organizations examining their hiring practices.

“I’ve had to specifically work with recruiters or hiring managers and say, ‘if you don’t come with three candidates that represent a diverse pool, then you haven’t worked hard enough,’” said McCarter LaBorde. “So, I see those things as related. Women who will step up to be a candidate and put themselves forward takes a lot of courage, just as it takes courage to be a hiring manager to bring on someone who isn’t maybe the most qualified but is going to round out your workforce or C-Suite team (diversity).”

Other panelists included Elenita San Roque, CEO of the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions, Scholastica Odhiambo, Board Director of Cooperative Bank of Kenya and Hazina SACCO, and Miriam De Dios Woodward, Global CEO of ViClarity.

“Shut the Duck Up”

Forum attendees were also encouraged to “Shut the Duck Up” during a keynote address by Sandra McDowell, CEO and Founder of eLeadership Academy.

McDowell relayed the message that many professionals who mentor or coach others do not spend enough time listening, because they are too anxious to insert their own thoughts or advice. She handed out small rubber ducks to drive that point home.

“There’s what’s called the 80/20 rule which you’ve heard of, of course—it also applies to coaching. Who does the 80% apply to, the coachee or the coach? If you’re having a true coaching conversation, you should only be speaking about 20% of the time,” said McDowell. “And if you find yourself talking, you can ask yourself – why am I talking? And you can look at your duck and remind yourself to shut the duck up.”

Athena Award goes to Ocampo

Ida Rosette Ocampo received the 2023 Athena Award during Saturday’s GWLN Reception at WCUC 2023.

Serving as Chief Officer for Administration at Barangka Credit Cooperative in The Philippines, Ocampo began her GWLN journey at the 2017 World Credit Union Conference.

She has since established the Barangka Credit Cooperative Sister Society and worked through the cooperative and the Sister Society to foster professional development and network building to advance leadership training, facilitate financial-stability centric webinars for their members, and to secure a gender balance in governance by targeting the diversity on boards and within executive leadership to better mirror Barangka Cooperative’s member base.

“I will continue my work to empower women in credit unions along with the mission of GWLN,” said Ocampo. “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be part of this network and to work with so many talented and dedicated men and women leaders. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the global credit union movement, and I am confident that, together, we can make a difference.”

The Athena Award is inspired by the goddess of Greek mythology who stands for strength, courage, and wisdom and is presented to an individual or organization making an outstanding contribution to women's leadership in the international credit union movement.

2023 GWLN Scholarship recipients were also recognized during Saturday’s reception.

TruStage was the lead sponsor of this weekend’s GWLN events, along with co-sponsors: Co-op Solutions, OneAZ Credit Union, Origence and PSCU.

Still to come

The 2023 World Credit Union Conference officially begins Sunday afternoon with the opening ceremony, followed by a welcome reception in the Solution Center.

Follow conference activities and see daily event photos on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram with #WCUC2023.

Presented in collaboration with the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA), the 2023 World Credit Union Conference runs through Wednesday, July 26.

World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development platform for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.

World Council has implemented 300+ technical assistance programs in 90 countries. Worldwide, 87,914 credit unions in 118 countries serve 393 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at


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