Summer intern Melisa recently sat down with Ramatolie Saho and talked about her experience as a Fellow for Women’s World Banking. Fellows rotate through four departments of the organization over a two year period.
M: So tell us, how did you find your way to Women’s World Banking?
R: I came across Women’s World Banking fellowship through a general search related to women’s empowerment, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The idea of working across several departments was really appealing so I decided to apply.
M: Interesting. Which departments have you worked in so far at Women’s World Banking?
R: I started with the Research department, and then went on to the Center for Microfinance Leadership. Now I’m with Development, specifically Foundations and Corporate Partnerships.
M: What did you do with each one of them?
R: With Research, we did market research that involved both secondary research and research in the field. The main project that I worked on was research on individual lending for women in Egypt and that was with our network member LEAD Foundation in Cairo. The secondary research was on the microfinance market in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) in general, and we also looked at Egypt specifically. We also did in field research to understand women’s specific needs related to credit, which was great.
M: That is when you got the opportunity to visit Egypt?
R: Yes, I had the opportunity to do a field engagement in Cairo, and in addition to clients we also talked to Lead Foundation staff, to understand how they were reaching out to clients and we tried to identify any barriers. It was really exciting because that was around the time of the Revolution (Arab Spring) so we got to see the impact of the Revolution not only on household income and women’s roles in income generation.
M: That sounds like an amazing first six months. What did you work on at the Center for Microfinance Leadership?
R: Yes, at the Center we worked on different projects, one was working closely with the Online Leadership Community, an online forum that brings together alumni of different leadership development programs to exchange leadership ideas, resources, experiences and access to different tools. Many of the alumni are at the CEO level, so it’s exciting to get to hear their perspectives on leadership. One important part of Center’s program is sustaining engagement, so we have webinars that bring alumni together to focus on particular business challenges. The first one was in April (2013) and we worked with Dr. Youssef Fawaz, head of our network member in Lebanon, Al Majmoua. He spoke about the impact of managing in the context of risk and insecurity, because Lebanon is faced with an influx of refugees (from Syria). His insights were supplemented with experiences of other Center Alumni facing similar challenges; including perspectives from Egypt and Jordan. It was a great discussion.
M: Great. And you’re now just starting at the Development team?
R: Yes, I will be working closely with William Eisenman who is the Director of Foundation and Corporate Partnerships. I will be working on proposals and concept notes to fund projects that will be implemented by our Programs team.
M: I learned from one of the Fellow videos (link) that you traveled to Kenya on your first week at Women’s World Banking. How was that experience?
R: It’s actually really interesting because the Products team was conducting research for a fixed-deposit savings product for informal and domestic workers, which is a really unique market segment. It was fascinating to get to understand the financial needs of this particular segment. It was also fascinating to experience first-hand the link between market research and product development. Visiting Kenya was also exciting. They have been leaders in this mobile ranking, and their financing sector is pretty dynamic so to get to experience microfinance from the East African perspective was amazing.
M: Sounds wonderful. So, can you tell me the most positive characteristic that you have found at Women’s World Banking?
R: There are a lot of things that have impressed me, but the most impressive is that this is such a small team doing such a tremendous amount of work. I mean, managing the number of network members we have and the number of projects that we are doing, and still being able to do things that are new to the sector. Being able to introduce such innovative products across the world by such a small group of people, I think is absolutely fascinating.