Success Stories Highlight Women’s Day Event in Tunisia
Essma Ben Hamida, the founder of Enda, a pioneering microfinance lender in
Tunisia, knew from an early age the damaging effects of gender inequality. She
grew up in a society where men held the purse strings and women were discouraged
from going to university or getting a job outside the home.
my widowed mother had to ask her father for a stipend for the family’s meals,”
Ben Hamida recalled last week during an IFC-sponsored event marking
International Women’s Day. That made me conscious of the importance of access to
finance for women as a way for them to recover their dignity and improve their
Those experiences inspired Ben Hamida to found Enda, which has
handed out almost one million loans over the last two decades, the vast majority
of them to women.
Ben Hamida was among dozens of female entrepreneurs
and IFC clients who attended the event in Tunis last week, which included a
handicraft exhibition by local women entrepreneurs. The event was attended by
Dorothy Berry, Vice President for Human Resources, Administration and
Communications and Dimitris Tsitsiragos, Vice President for EMENA.
During the day, participants from Bulgaria, Hungary, Jordan, Lebanon,
Moldova, Morocco, Pakistan, Romania,Tajikistan, and Tunisia shared their
experiences and talked about ways to promote gender equality. The key, many
said, is harnessing the entrepreneurial energy of female business
“Women in the private sector represent a powerful source of
economic growth and opportunity,” said Dorothy Berry, IFC Vice President for
Human Resources, Administration, and Communications. “Across developing
countries, it is estimated that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with female
ownership represent 30 to 37 percent (8 million to 10 million) of all
Among those who attended the conference was Maya Georgieva, member
of the supervisory board of the First Investment Bank of Bulgaria. “It was very
important to share our experience and hear from all the female participants,”
she said. “I’d like to thank IFC for creating gender finance programs around the
world. (This work) can inspire thousands of minds globally.”
says upending gender stereotypes is possible, but it will take a concerted
effort. She pointed to her mother, who despite being deprived of education,
insisted that her daughters go to university.
“She worked very hard
sewing, knitting,and weaving carpets to pay for the extra expenses.” That
sacrifice has inspired the work of Ben Hamida and Enda, which has helped more
than 300,000 micro-entrepreneurs.