Jordan Times
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

FINCA International welcomes Queen to board of directors

AMMAN (JT) — FINCA International, the Foundation for International Community Assistance, announced Monday in Washington that Her Majesty Queen Rania had accepted an invitation to join its board of directors, formalizing a relationship of support and advocacy that began in 2000.

FINCA Executive Director Rupert Scofield welcomed Her Majesty to the board during an event bringing together some of Washington's most prominent women activists and the Queen — currently on a five-day working visit to the US with His Majesty King Abdullah.

In accepting the invitation, the Queen reaffirmed her belief in FINCA's vision that micro finance organizations offer a tangible means of providing large numbers of the world's poorest a real stake in their societies.

She stressed that sustainable development was a cornerstone through which values, such as democracy and freedom, could create stable societies providing opportunities to prosper to all.

The Queen underlined the fact that micro finance has a unique power to rebuild community capital, as loans repaid are cycled back, generating more jobs, more reconstruction, more hope.

The discussion focused on how women's economic empowerment could serve as a powerful tool in fostering stability in the Middle East.

Her Majesty also emphasized the importance of focusing on education as a powerful tool that contributes to closing a “gap that separates the world's people into those that have a future, and those that do not.”

Participants were in agreement that the Queen embodied and represented the hopes of women that play a key role in shaping the future and that of their societies.

Her Majesty has been an active supporter of micro lending in Jordan, having begun a community empowerment programme designed to enhance the economic and social well-being of women in underprivileged communities by establishing sustainable community-operated projects, as part of the Jordan River Foundation.

Scofield underlined Queen Rania's dedication to the plight of poor women in developing countries, recalling how the Queen's compassion was exhibited during a visit to one of FINCA's village banking programmes in a war-torn village in Kosovo.

Shortly after the conflict ended, the Queen became part of a FINCA working group put together to establish village banking groups in Kosovo and accepted the organization's invitation to meet with some of the programme's first clients.

“On that rain swept afternoon in the small town of Malishevo, I saw the deep compassion and sympathy,” Scofield recalled. “She did not have to make that trip or accept that invitation and I'm not sure how many world leaders would have had the courage to do so.

“But it was this experience that convinced me that Her Majesty's interest and commitment to our mission goes beyond a mere intellectual appreciation for the plight of the economically disadvantaged. She truly believes in the mission of FINCA and micro finance, and is willing to work on behalf of our clients to raise the issue to an internationally visible level.”

The Queen's association with FINCA international has been steadfast since her first visit to the organization's Washington headquarters in 2000. Amongst Her Majesty's advocacy efforts was her testimony to a US House Foreign Relations Committee to encourage passage of the Micro Enterprise for Self-reliance Act of 2001, the launching of the Global Endowment for the Poor and her announcement of the beginning of FINCA's Afghanistan programme in 2002, whose first loans will be distributed this winter.

Since 1984, the FINCA village banking methodology has proven successful in countries around the world in providing small loans, a savings programme and technical support for the self-employed poor — helping them to work their own way out of poverty.

By 2003, FINCA has disbursed over $142 million in loans, averaging $250, with an on-time repayment rate of more than 97 per cent.

Today, FINCA's 22 programmes in 21 countries demonstrate that not only does micro finance work in terms of how it impacts people's lives, it is also a sustainable, scaleable business model.

Because capital is lent, not given, a loan repaid makes another loan for a new family. Micro finance does not pour money down a drain — it fills an ever-expanding pool of renewable resources.

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