Global Marketing and Communications summer intern Melisa had the opportunity to chat with Sandy Salama, who just arrived from Cairo to New York for her two-year fellowship at Women’s World Banking.

M: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background? Where are you from?

S: I’m from Egypt. All my background is in microfinance, and hopefully it will continue that way. First I worked at Sanabel, The Microfinance Network of Arab Countries for almost three years. First as an assistant, and then as Senior Admin and Finance Officer. Then I went to Lead Foundation for 6 years, as an executive assistant and marketing and communication officer.

Sandy at her farewell party at Lead Foundation, with a souvenir from Karim Fanous, Lead's executive director.
Sandy at her farewell party at Lead Foundation, with a souvenir from Karim Fanous, Lead’s executive director.

M: How did you find your way to Women’s World Banking?

S: Through Lead Foundation, which is a member of the Women’s World network. I loved the idea of the women in the network. I thought this was the perfect place to learn the technicalities.

M: Which team are you working with, what specific projects and responsibilities does your position entail?

S: I’m with the Network Engagement team for my first rotation, working for the Global Meeting in Jordan. They are using my Arabic language skills. I am handling the stakeholder forum, which is my main project. In this project, I will support the one-on-one meetings to discuss opportunities around investments, partnership and product innovation during the meeting; prepare the Network Member Profile Book; coordinate communication and management of all logistical arrangements for participants and finally provide Arabic translation and interpretation support as needed.

M: I know you have learned different languages, Spanish, Arabic, French and English. How did you learn all of them?

S: I learned English here in the United States; I spent a year in the School here, at Cedar Grove High School, NJ. French, because I was in a French school since I was little. Spanish, I decided to learn it when I was in Lead Foundation because I spent a lot of time in the traffic, so I decided to learn something new!

M: Interesting. Besides the languages, what special qualities you think you bring to the organization?

S: Maybe my experience in the field. At Sanabel Network I was working with all the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) MFIs (microfinance institutions), and at Lead Foundation, I know the market, the culture, what people think. I think I will bring my knowledge. The things I’ve learned from the field, from the actual members.

M: How do you feel about economic empowerment of women?

R: I think the woman is the most important thing in the world. What made me work in microfinance and be part of it is the woman. When I was working as a Senior Admin and Finance Officer at Sanabel, I went to the field to visit clients from one of Sanabel Network members. I met this woman one day, selling vegetables, and she was telling me that she was letting her children go to school, because she had money that she didn’t have before.

The women make the difference in the world. When you give to a woman you know that her children will learn. If you invest in a woman, you will give her an opportunity to be someone, and do something for the community, and she will also teach the children and make a difference.

M: What are your expectations from these next two years at Women’s World Banking?

S: I expect to learn the technicalities, to know more about other regions, other MFIs in other countries. I think being in several departments is very good because I will gain the needed knowledge to do something important. Knowing what each department actually does is essential. At my previous job, I didn’t work in the financials, or operations, I was just reading reports. Doing the work and learning what actually these people do, what the impact on the market and on the MFIs is like, I think is very important. I will do my best to learn and gain knowledge and also bring my knowledge to Women’s World Banking