2013 MENA Conference Agenda CoverIn less than 24 hours, Women’s World Banking will be kicking off its first conference for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in Amman, Jordan, “Building Women-Focused Finance: the Global-Local Experience” under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah. We are thrilled to be presenting this one-of-a-kind conference with Sanabel and co-hosting with our local network member, Microfund for Women.

The impetus for holding a women-focused finance conference in MENA could not be clearer: only 13% of women have a formal savings account with 4% of women accessing a loan – these numbers are the lowest in the world and if not addressed, will prevent any significant economic growth for the region. Given the number of people registered for the conference, we know there is lots of interest in addressing this issue – we have nearly 300 confirmed attendees, including 45 network member participants from 33 institutions around the world.

Women’s World Banking has a strong focus in the region. We recently expanded our network with the addition of Al Majmoua (Lebanon) and worked closely with Microfund for Women (Jordan) on the launch of the successful Ri’aya (Caregiver) micro health insurance product and will be expanding it to Morocco. We are also currently supporting Lead Foundation’s (Egypt) development of an individual lending program. Microfund for Women was also awarded the 2013 Excellence in Leadership Award.

Women’s World Banking will bring its extensive, thirty-year long experience working with financial institutions around the world in conversation with other regional and global experts on financial inclusion. Among the subjects covered in this two-day conference are product innovations such as microinsurance and mobile banking; impact investing; managing through a crisis; measuring social performance and regulation. All topics of course, will be discussed through a regional and gender lens.

We could not be more grateful for the generous support of our lead sponsor, Citi Microfinance, as well as our principal sponsors Grameen Jameel, the IFC and MetLife Foundation; partners GIZ, Jordan Insurance Company and White and Case; and supporters Fern Software, SANAD and Temenos. We appreciate their support of promoting financial services that focus on the needs of low-income women of the MENA region.

I encourage you to follow the hashtag #bwffconf on Twitter to participate in the conversations happening during the conference even if you are unable to join us. Our staff will also be blogging about the insights learned during the various panels so keep a look-out on our blog as we share them with you over the next couple of months.