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Essma Ben Hamida: singer, journalist, instructor and monetary inclusion chief

Essma Ben Hamida outside the offices of Enda inter-arabeEssma Ben Hamida is the co-founder and CEO of enda inter-arabe in Tunisia. When she was a younger lady, her dream was to be a singer like ‘Umm Kulthum’. However because of the limitations imposed by traditions and tradition, she was not capable of make her dream come true. She ended up finding out historical past and geography. She started her profession as a secondary faculty instructor and a TV journalist reporter in Tunisia. And later, she grew to become one of many girls leaders in her nation.

Essma opened the primary bureau of the Tunisian Press Company in New York on the United Nations. There she gained a number of expertise. As a part of her work, she was uncovered to the troubles around the globe whereas writing on political points. Following her journalism profession, she moved to Rome to work in Inter Press Service, a world world press company overlaying third world nations points. Throughout that point she went to nations the place there have been wars similar to Palestine and Lebanon; and the place there was injustice and exploitation. She was shocked by the extent of poverty when she went to Mauritania, Senegal, some Latin and Asian nations, some Arab nations, and particularly, Palestine the place she noticed poverty combined with political occupation. She beloved her work however all the time had the sensation that she was lacking one thing. In 1988, Essma had to return to Tunisia after a number of years of absence from the nation to jot down an article. She was shocked by the poverty degree and the inequalities in her personal nation the place she was raised. She discovered that girls didn’t have entry to credit score they usually weren’t determination makers. “After telling everybody how proud I’m to be Tunisian with all of the rights we’ve as girls for the reason that first yr of Tunisia’s independence in 1956, I used to be shocked and speechless with the gender inequality I’ve witnessed in my very own nation,” she stated.

Essma needed to admit that she can not contribute to growth via journalism and determined to do it via concrete motion. In a convention in Geneva, she met Jacques Bugnicourt, the founding father of Enda Third World, a Dakar-based worldwide NGO, and requested him if she may open an Enda workplace in Tunisia her dwelling nation. Essma needed Enda to be a bridge between Arab International locations and Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. “I found I can’t change the world, however let’s begin with my nation,” she stated.

In 1989, Essma went again to Tunisia with Michael Cracknell, her husband and associate, having no thought what they’d do with enda and not using a penny. However for her, it was all the time to emulate the Grameen Financial institution and Muhammad Yunus (whom she met throughout one of many conferences). “We determined to launch into micro-credit, however Michael and I had no expertise on this. Because of a grant from the Ford basis Cairo workplace we went to Egypt to go to and study from the Alexandria Businessmen’s Affiliation and different NGOs providing micro-credit”.

Essma Ben Hamida

“Initially we began with 5 loans that we financed from our assets. It was flawed to do this however we had no funds for this on the time,” she stated. Essma and Michael began with a group of 5 and obtained 20,000 {dollars} from a French NGO, Emaus Worldwide, to start out disbursing the primary loans within the largest poor neighborhood in Tunis.

Till 2005, Enda confronted fairly just a few challenges resulting from lack of funding. “Nobody believed in us – not the funders, the federal government, even associates besides our girls purchasers. It was solely when purchasers began to take repeat loans that authorities officers, funders, and associates began to consider in us”. Then we obtained assist from the Spanish authorities, the EU and a few European NGOs like ICCO and Intermon.

“The story of Enda is just like the story of a consumer who was very poor and grew little by little. It took us just a few years to grow to be greater. We began with nothing however the enterprise grew strongly and we grew to become self-reliant. Microfinance helps to deliver again your dignity, each for the purchasers and for the establishment. If we had not reached self-sufficiency we couldn’t have performed practically as a lot as we did.”

From Essma’s perspective, microfinance is a robust instrument. For those who don’t give girls entry to finance, there may be no empowerment. Now they’re determination makers of their lives and the lives of their youngsters. Some even assist their husbands and unemployed youngsters to start out a enterprise. Once we began, Tunisian girls have been very busy inside their houses. They may not exit. They used center males to promote their merchandise. “My mom used to weave carpets however by no means went to the market to promote them: there was a center man who got here to take the carpets and promote it. She knew nothing about negotiating or about how a lot he truly offered the carpet for.”

In 1992 earlier than we started, no girls have been promoting within the markets or streets. Cafés have been just for males, by no means girls. They labored nearly as servants in their very own houses. After we began offering loans, it was like an explosion. Girls began their very own companies, realized to barter and promote. They acquired coaching. They generate their very own earnings. The TV and training additionally contributed. “Girls in Tunisia are energetic; they wish to work and personal a enterprise; they’ve Phoenician blood from Dido and the Queen of Carthage,” stated Essma; including “Cash empowers girls and lets them contribute in decision-making. After 20 years I can see the modifications. Every thing modified utterly for these entrepreneurial girls.”

Initially, Enda was focusing solely on girls however after Essma went to a gender coaching course in New York, she modified her perspective. She did some focus teams with purchasers and what stunned her was that girls purchasers beloved the concept, saying males are our husbands, brothers; allow them to work and have their very own enterprise. With the assistance of Girls’s World Banking, Enda carried out gender analysis . The gender evaluation of Enda’s buyer base helped Enda perceive the differentiated wants of its female and male purchasers. Now enda has 30% males purchasers.

Enda began in city areas however with the assistance of the French Growth Company, it was capable of empower girls in rural areas since 2007.

Through the Tunisian Revolution from December 2010 which began the Arab Spring Revolution, Enda closed its branches and providers to purchasers for simply 2 days. And the purchasers understood the state of affairs they usually even, technically, protected their branches. The PAR went from 0.33% to six% and now it’s again to underneath 2%. Essma and several other senior workers visited branches and purchasers to know their wants. Enda launched mortgage rescheduling to ease compensation issues and refinanced just a few purchasers who had misplaced all or a part of their enterprise. Enda additionally wrote off money owed in just a few instances. They opened new branches within the remotest and poorest areas to assist extra purchasers who have been in want. Essma proudly mentions that Enda got here via this tough interval pretty unscathed. The truth that the group remained obtainable and current for his or her purchasers strengthened the connection. What was spectacular, says Essma, was the speedy progress of civil society that after the revolution, so many new NGOs have been created by younger men and women.

Because the revolution, Enda’s portfolio has grown by 186% to 250 million TND (about 140 million USD), reaching to 250,000 purchasers via 79 branches. 35% of the purchasers are younger folks underneath 35; lots of them have been among the many 800,000 unemployed within the nation. After the Revolution and because of a beneficiant assist from the Swiss Cooperation, Enda launched a particular product for startups by younger girls and boys from the poorest areas of the nation.

Enda now faces a number of challenges resulting from what’s going on within the area. “Microfinance can not go along with battle – we’d like safety. Everybody in his/her nation ought to make a distinction in his/her work.” The opposite large problem that Enda is going through is that fairly just a few individuals who know nothing in regards to the sector nor have ever met a micro-entrepreneur reject micro-finance out of precept.

The innovation that Enda is engaged on is in micro-insurance and cell banking, “I’m proud to see the response of girls after they began utilizing expertise”. Essma sees the long run in expertise to enhance Enda’s work and the companies and lives of its purchasers.

The largest dream and problem now for Essma is for Enda to grow to be the primary micro-finance financial institution in Tunisia. However they nonetheless have a protracted strategy to go till the regulators permit MFIs to take deposits.

Essma has some recommendation for ladies leaders. “Preserve a stability between your personal life and your work. Do what you might be enthusiastic about so that you can provide extra. I’m blissful and passionate even when I work lots. Handle your well being so it is possible for you to to see the outcomes of your laborious work.” Essma is now making it occur by empowering girls and youth in Tunisia. She can also be fulfilling her previous dream by taking singing courses.

*In December 2008, Girls’s World Banking’s market analysis group, in collaboration with enda, carried out buyer analysis to enhance our understanding of how gender relations affect the event and progress of microenterprises in Tunisia. The analysis was additionally designed to supply buyer perception and suggestions on two of enda’s microlending merchandise.

Put up Script from Ujjivan CEO, Samit Ghosh

It’s my pleasure to introduce my charming & completed pal Essma Ben Hamida from ENDA in Tunisia because the Girls Chief who has made Excellent Contribution to Monetary Inclusion. She is a pioneer in Tunisia. I’m so blissful for her that the one nation the ‘Arab Spring’ within the Arab world was capable of deliver the political modifications the folks had been aspiring for – democracy & freedom from oppression. Underneath this surroundings ENDA & Essma continues to flourish. Right here is {photograph} in Valladolid, Spain with Essma & Professor Yunus.

(L-R) Essma ben Hamida, Muhammad Yunus and Samit Ghosh

Cross-posted on Ujjivan as a part of their on-going sequence on girls leaders in monetary inclusion



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