The year 2009 began with intense speculation about how the microfinance industry would weather the financial crisis, with even seasoned industry leaders questioning microfinance institutions’ (MFIs) ability to cope with dramatic shifts in portfolio quality, growth rates and liquidity. Now, with the worst of the financial crisis behind us, we can clearly see that while the microfinance industry generally experienced lower profitability and portfolio quality, it also demonstrated remarkable resilience. The Women’s World Banking network, on average, outperformed its peers— network members not only operated more efficiently and more profitably than the industry, but this impressive financial performance was accompanied by a sustained outreach to the poor.

These last twelve months have highlighted the signature characteristics of organizations that perform well both financially and socially, such as those in the Women’s World Banking network. We have seen that resilient institutions offer diversified credit and asset-building products tailored to their clients’ needs, sustain strong governance by working closely with like-minded investors and retain a focus on microfinance’s most reliable target market: low-income women. Throughout this report you will see evidence of Women’s World Banking ‘s commitment to designing products and services to meet women’s needs. For example, our work with five network members to introduce savings products for women and girls is featured on pages 11-13 of this report. And our mission extends beyond our work with women clients to making sure that MFIs are themselves the employers of choice for women. The launch of the Center for Microfinance Leadership allowed Women’s World Banking  to extend its commitment to training principled, visionary leaders to the microfinance industry as a whole. Read about the Center’s course offerings and achievements to date on pages 14 and 15.

The year 2009 was a crucible for the microfinance industry and the numbers send a clear message: a concerted focus on women is very good for both components of the double bottom line of profitability and poverty alleviation.

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