Speech: Investing in women globally to impact change locally

Speech by Benoit André, CDF Canada Executive Director at the CCUA National Conference, Winnipeg (May 7, 2019). (As prepared for delivery)

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here tonight and address such a distinguished audience of credit union leaders and professionals.

I am the Executive Director of the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada, an organization that has represented you – the co-op and credit union community of Canada – for over seven decades and continues to rely on your support and generosity to bring hope and opportunity for people around the world.

Benoit André, CDF Canada Executive Director and Women’s Mentorship Program alumnae and mentors Mercy Tumukunde (left) and Dorothy Namirembe (right)

IMPACT is a key word of this conference. It is also a key word in our work at CDF Canada. It is a word that can be sometimes overused, or not used well. Impact who? How? Where? The meaning of IMPACT is different for different people and organizations. Tonight, I would like to share with you some concrete examples of what is impact for us, at CDF Canada.

71 years ago, Canadian credit union and co-op leaders created this organization [CDF Canada]. It was just after the Second World War, a moment when it became clear to everyone that one cannot look away from what is happening around the world. Those leaders, 71 years ago, decided to use the power of co-operatives and of the co-operative principles to do good, globally, and thus locally.

To this day, the impact of their vision is felt. They are long gone. Their names are barely remembered, however, all over the world, the decisions they took 71 years ago are still impacting lives. 

In 2018 alone, CDF Canada reached over 200,000 individuals through its interventions. We worked with communities in 12 countries by enabling over 12,000 women create or grow their micro-enterprise, equipping over 78,000 households to better adapt to the effects of climate change or helping 88,000 individuals successfully obtain loans for their enterprises. Our focus on empowering women and advancing gender equality, strengthening financial inclusion and building environmentally sustainable and resilient communities is the embodiment of our profound belief that when we act together, based on the co-op principles, we impact the world and help make it a better place.

But these are numbers – 88000, 200.000 – and they are abstract. Today, some of you had the chance to put a face and a name to those numbers and to meet some of the people that you have helped help.

Dorothy Namirembe is from Uganda. She came to Canada in 2017 as a participant of the Women’s Mentorship Program to gain more confidence in her leadership journey as a woman and expand the boundaries of what she can accomplish. She wanted to invest in her brand as a manager, as a professional and as a woman. Today, as Admin and HR Manager of Y-Save credit union in Uganda, Dorothy is implementing many new ideas that she observed in Canada, including a commitment to social performance management.

Mercy Tumukunde is the General Manager of Franciscan Investment Co-operative and a 2018 Women’s Mentorship Program alumna. Upon returning to Uganda from her 4-week long training experience in Canada, together with Dorothy, they created and currently manage the CEO Forum of Ugandan SACCOs [credit unions]. They mentor their CEO peers and provide leadership and governance training to build a stronger credit union community of professionals in Uganda.

Mercy and Dorothy are here tonight as a testimony to the power of leadership, that was supported by the Canadian government, Canadian credit unions, private sector donors such as Fiserv, and regular Canadians, who provide a home and a family for our participants during their stay in Canada.  

Mercy and Dorothy returned to Ottawa this year to mentor the next cohort of 15 talented women leaders from around the world who are currently hosted in 16 credit unions across this country and who will become agents of change when they return to their communities.

On behalf of CDF Canada, I am very grateful to all of you, for your support and commitment throughout the past 17 years to the transformational role and impact of this amazing Program;

I hope that you will continue to support this great initiative in the years ahead to enable us to invest in women globally to impact change locally. I hope that you will be willing to continue to impact the world.

Thank you.     

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