It is the message of trust you are sending by the image of a woman selling lemons on a street corner. That is the secret of micro finance, stressed Pancho Otero, director of the Bolivia-based Micro Enterprise Policy.
“Boosting both cash and self-esteem is what micro-finance is about, for poverty is not only an economic issue, but the way you see yourself and how society sees you,” added Otero in a presentation on the financial assistance of micro finance services.
He was speaking in a three-day seminar on `Small and Micro Business Development Services' held at the Queen Zein Al Sharaf Institute for Development.
Otero briefed the attendants on the setbacks of some strategies that aim to eradicate poverty, such as the system of subsidization.
“It is a system that demoralizes the subsidized individuals, as the message it relays is that they are a basket case; take money and do nothing.”
“Microfinance is financially sustainable, politically viable... it promotes existing employment, ends marginality and creates confidence in the beneficiaries,” he explained.
Organizers believe the meeting is an opportunity to be familiarized with the local, regional and international expertise, their successes and failures, in order to come up with patterns, which take into consideration Jordanian communities.
Organized by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) in cooperation with the Spanish Fudacion Codespa, the event brings together experts from Tunisia, Bolivia, Canada, Spain and Peru, in addition to participants from the Kingdom's micro credit institutions.
“Poverty and unemployment have been exacerbated despite all efforts to achieve a balanced sustainable development,” said Shadia Nusseir, executive director of JOHUD.
According to Nusseir, recent studies show that the percentage of Jordanian families living below the poverty line exceeds 20 percent, and more than 15 percent of the workforce suffer unemployment. Independent assessments of unemployment estimate the figure at nearly twice that.
“The meeting is a chance to exchange experiences in order to draw up a framework that meets the circumstances of Jordanians and the local communities,” added Nusseir in the opening ceremony.
Speaking on behalf of HRH Princess Basma, who patronized the event, Minister of Trade and Industry Wasif Azar said that in efforts to bolster national exports and productivity, developing communities often tend to focus on setting up large projects rather than small ones.
“These communities do not give due attention to individual or family businesses which utilise a small number of employees, although such projects keep citizens away from unemployment,” he told the gathering.
Through its 50 centers across the Kingdom, JOHUD started its own credit service in 1992. Four years later, in 1996 it established the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in cooperation with Oxfam-Quebec, with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), to be the first reference in managing credits and channeling expertise.
Codespa was created in 1985 by a group of entrepreneurs and professionals. Its mission is to help people and communities in developing countries to improve their living standards at the same time as the local institutions are being strengthened.
“Our work with local partners is characterized by its focus on the beneficiaries. We understand that the goal of every intervention is the benefit of the individual participant,” said Director Javair Cavanna of Codespa.
“Codespa aims to promote integral development in which each person grows in dignity, creativity and capacity to overcome their own problem,” he told the more than 40 participants.
The 16-year-old firm promotes a wide variety of projects ranging from providing access to basic services to deprived communities, to the delivery of professional training and promotion of micro enterprises.
Qais Qatamin, executive director of the Jordan Micro-Credit Company, said he hoped the meeting would help create a kind of network of cooperation and coordination among Jordan's microfinance institutions, which they are lacking at the moment.
Other themes that will be tackled in the seminar include those on NGO efficiency in service delivery, the Jordanian experience in the SBDC initiative, non-financial services and a perspective of the SBDC in the 21st century. — (Jordan Times)
By Rana Awwad
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)