Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe, a women advocacy group, Wednesday invited financial institutions to showcase their financial services to women cross-border traders in an effort to help them formalise their business.
The women were drawn from 60 cooperatives from nine border districts, namely; Bugesera, Kirehe, Nyagatare, Nyaruguru, Gisagara, Burera, Gicumbi, Rubavu and Rusizi.
Pro-Femmes vice president, Zipora Murigo Mujawingoma, said the project aims to facilitate women cooperatives in acquiring financial services and related information to strengthen their business undertakings.
“Our mandate is to advocate for such women and in their case, access to finance is the most important challenge. That is why we organised this platform to allow them to network and learn from each other on working with financial institutions. They are now more willing to work with financial institutions than before,” she said.
Charity Uwase, in charge of responsible and inclusive finance at Association of Microfinance Institutions of Rwanda (AMIR), said that traders need to overcome fear to work with financial institutions.
She, however, said that requisite education by the banks is needed especially on loan acquisition and how to use it appropriately.
“Some people take loans and end up using the money to buy things they didn’t budget for. Financial institutions should, therefore, be transparent enough and teach clients about the loans, interest rates and the risks and this will help reduce default,” she said.
Patience Mutesi, Country Director of TradeMark East Africa, which works to empower cross-border traders, underlined the significance of linking cooperatives and financial institutions.
“Access to finance remains the prevalent challenge and cooperatives do not know how to approach financial institutions.
“Financial institutions also have a challenge of how to reach cooperatives. We are providing that link between financial service providers and those who require their services,” she said.
Participants share their thoughts
Devota Nyirahabimana, who represented one of the cooperatives, said that the have been working in a disorganised manner which made them static in terms of business growth.
She said they have since been trained and linked up with colleagues to form cooperatives and are now optimistic of working more closely with financial institutions to access capital.
Gertrude Munyana, from Goshen Finance, said the function is a platform for networking and information sharing.
“There are many people here from various parts of the country. These cooperatives have many members and it’s an opportunity to get our services known,” she noted.
A project supporting women in the informal cross-border trade, which is funded by Trade Mark East Africa, was initiated in 2012.