National Council of Women of Canada - Blog

A Blog gives you current information and items of inerest. The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) has done two blogs on the meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women, 2010, and 2011. We are continuing now with a blog, on a range of topics of interst to members and the public. The NCWC has a very complete web site where you can learn more about the history and members of Council.

A blog (a blend of the term web log) is a type of or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.

Most blogs (including this one) are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pates, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs.

As of 16 February 2011 (2011 -02-16), there were over 156 million public blogs in existence.

The above from Wikipedia!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good response for Liberal Announcement on Childcare

Childcare program puts families before jails and jets
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                March 31, 2011
OTTAWA-The Liberal federal election pledge to reintroduce a national childcare program will finally put Canada on the road to giving families the support they need during their children’s early years, says Code Blue for Child Care.

The Code Blue for Child Care campaign began in 2006 when the newly elected Harper government tore up signed agreements with the provinces, cancelling the national childcare program initiated by Prime Minister Paul Martin. Since then, the group has tracked the growing lack of available and affordable high quality childcare for Canada’s families with young children. Regulated childcare covers only about 20% of Canadian 0 -5 year olds, while more than 70% of mothers are in the paid labour force. 

 “Canada has lost five valuable years that could have been spent building the kind of early learning and childcare system that other countries have”, said Shellie Bird, the campaign’s coordinator. “We are a rich nation, yet when it comes to giving families the options they need and want for their children, we rank rock bottom in the world.” 

“We are very encouraged that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has chosen to make childcare a prominent issue in this election and has pledged to build a universal high quality program” said Debra Mayer, a Winnipeg childcare expert.  “The proposal recognizes this as both the first stage of education for all children and a valuable support for parents, especially working mothers.”

  Code Blue for Child care is advocating for a universal system of publicly funded, publicly managed high quality childcare. The group is urging political leaders to commit to building such a system by 2020, beginning with an immediate infusion of funds.  

“This is not only the right thing to do, for children and for women, but it’s also the smart thing to do for our communities and for Canada”, said Sue Delanoy, Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, a member of Code Blue. “Good childcare works for everyone in Canada—children, families and communities—because it yields economic and social benefits such as health, lifelong learning, training and employment support, and social cohesion. We hope other parties will also be pledging support to a national childcare system”. 

Code Blue for Child Care made up of women’s, labour, childcare and social justice groups from across Canada.

Early Childhood Learning and Child Care Fund Announced as part of Liberal Platform

Early Childhood Learning and Care Fund

Every Canadian child deserves the best possible start in life and a comprehensive approach to learning in Canada begins with early childhood learning and care.

We’ve already seen leadership on early childhood learning and care from provinces such as Quebec. But due to a lack of federal leadership from the Conservatives, Canada receives failing grades from international bodies, including the OECD and UNICEF, for having no coordinated national early childhood learning and care policy. Growth of child care spaces has declined sharply under the Harper Conservatives.

Working parents, amidst all their other pressures, often struggle with waiting lists for the limited number of existing spaces. That wait can often last years. In fact, Canada ranks last among industrialized nations in providing access to affordable, high-quality child care spaces. Investing in our children not only eases pressures on families – it also boosts the economy. A recent study funded by the Government of Canada found that every dollar invested in early childhood learning and care increases economic output nearly two and a half times that amount.
For these reasons, a Liberal government will establish a new Early Childhood Learning and Care Fund that will invest $500 million in the first year of our plan, rising to an annual commitment of $1 billion by the fourth year.

Administered as a new social infrastructure fund, provinces, territories and First Nations will be able to apply to the Fund for cost-sharing of early childhood learning and care plans that create and operate new, affordable, high-quality early childhood learning and care spaces across Canada, with qualified professional staff.

The long-term goal is a high-quality, affordable early childhood learning and care space for every Canadian family that wants one. But the federal government cannot do this on its own. It will require sustained collaboration among all governments. As implementation of the Fund ramps up joint investment, a Liberal government will work collaboratively with other governments on the research, policy development and sharing of best practices for the system to meet its long-term goal. This plan will support innovation and different approaches at the provincial and community levels.

Our commitment will place Canada on a path of step-by-step, year-by-year progress to improve access to early childhood learning and care. The result will be higher quality care for Canadian families, less waiting for spaces, and a country with a renewed commitment to the learning and development of our youngest citizens.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Child Care announcement expected in Winnipeg tomorrow (Thursday)

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff will make a child care related announcement during an election campaign stop in Winnipeg Thursday, Global News has learned.

Ignatieff will make the campaign promise at a community centre in south Winnipeg Thursday morning. Details and dollar figures were not immediately available. Ignatieff kicked off his election campaign last week promising to fight the Conservatives on day care, citing a female bulldozer operator he met in Newfoundland worried she couldn’t work because she was a single mom with no one to care for her kids. 

I'm going to try and be there.

Elizabeth May - Leader of the Green Party but not allowed at the Leader's Debate

Let's hope May wins
She would ring new ideas to a tired game; If the leader of the Green party wins a seat in Parliament, we might get debate that matters
By Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun March 29, 2011 

Let's hope that Saanich-Gulf Islands voters rock the boat while they have the chance and put Elizabeth May of the Green party into parliament.

She's feisty, she's female, she's fearless, and she's a fresh voice. May and the Greens actually hold some promise of shaking up the dismal status quo in Ottawa that's produced four elections in eight years, four minority governments, and political leaders who seem bereft of, well, leadership qualities.

Stephen Harper drones on robotically with his big-lie talking point for this campaign -the Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition conspiracy is plotting a coup unless he's crowned with a majority.

Michael Ignatieff delivers dry-as-a-stick history lessons -Harper was once hot for a Conservative-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition, if only it could have made him king for a day.

Jack Layton flogs the Harmonized Sales Tax in hope of beating a few more British Columbia votes out of that dying horse.

Gilles Duceppe moans about the raw deal Quebec gets from Canada despite billions in equalization transfers. He demands more, of course, then he'll flounce out of Confederation.

Good Lord, 30 more days on the thin gruel of leftovers and same old, same old?

May has been criticized for running against powerful Conservative defence minister Peter MacKay in 2008. But isn't that what good leaders do -take on the tough fights? Under May's leadership, the Green party earned a million votes across Canada.

Now she's challenging Conservative Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands. Lunn's been a political non-entity during his decade in Ottawa. He had his 15 minutes of fame as minister of natural resources -he sacked the head of the Nuclear Safety Commission in a tiff over certifying a reactor. He was shuffled off to minister of state for sport, whatever that entails besides piling up pension points.

Oh, I know, this invites the inevitable fusillade from partisans that their leaders deserve the throne, it's the others who should be deposed. Sorry. I hear plenty of bankrupt ideologies but few stirring new ideas emanating from the House of Commons. The ideas oozing from this already mean-spirited campaign seem drearier than ever.

Look, can we please have a public debate among our leaders that actually touches upon things that are important to voters and not just the re-election strategies devised by pollobsessed policy wonks?

What's Canada's strategic long-term energy policy, for example? Are we going to tie ourselves to synthetic crude produced from Alberta's oilsands and hope for a naturalgas bonanza from the Arctic, which, by the way, we're already committed to share with wasteful Americans?

Or, as May proposes, are we finally going to get real about implementing sustainable green supplements to the energy supply so that we don't have to burn through Alberta's petroleum reserves like there is no tomorrow, put up with nuclear disasters, or pay through the nose for our own natural gas at prices set by American profligates?

Can we talk about the economic impact of green jobs - a recent U.S. study found that simply upgrading buildings to environmental standards generated $173 billion in GDP, supported more than 2.4 million jobs and paid $123 billion in wages. It forecasts $554 billion in GDP, 7.9 million jobs and $396 billion in wages by 2013.

As that train pulls out, do we want to be standing in the station listening to the same tired old ideologically driven ideas?

This election is probably costing $10 million US a day. We've spent more than a billion on federal elections since 2004. For what? This level of debate? We need new ideas. Give May the platform she wants and that we deserve.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Debate on Income Splitting

March 28, 2011 Income splitting won't help families in need

By ARMINE YALNIZYAN Globe and Mail Blog The families that will benefit the most from Stephen Harper's income splitting promise will be those who need the least help

Armine Yalnizyan is a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Harper Conservatives have introduced their first policy measure in the 2011 federal election campaign - income splitting for young families.

They championed income-splitting right from the start, starting with the pensions of the elderly.

In 2006, the Library of Parliament was asked to estimate how much a suite of measures that would reduce taxes through income splitting would cost. It came up with a price tag of almost $5-billion.

The Conservatives haven't provided a cost estimate [] for this new election promise, but back then this initiative was estimated to cost $2.2-billion in 2007. It is undoubtedly more costly today.

Who will benefit from $2.2-billion or more in giveaways?

Single parents certainly won't. Single parents account for almost one in five families with young children (19 per cent), and have the highest rate of poverty in Canada. Single parents have the most difficulty making ends meet precisely because there isn't a second income earner in the family. Income splitting means nothing for them.

Most two-parent families won't benefit from income splitting either. They just can't afford to keep one earner at home.

There will be some families who will choose to give up income to spend more time with their kids, even if it means tighter family budgets. I know all about that - our family made that choice, without tax incentives.

But the families that will most benefit from Harper's income splitting promise will be those who need the least help. The higher the income, the bigger the tax break, and a much lesser challenge of keeping one parent at home.

Today, half of Canada's families raising children make less than $65,000, and most (80 per cent) have two people working. Only one in five families raising kids make more than $100,000.

Median incomes of families with young children were at or below 1976 levels until 1996 (in inflation-adjusted terms). Between 1997 and 2007 - the prosperous decade before the global economic crisis hit - modest increases in household incomes for most of these families were primarily driven by more people working more hours.

The average family raising kids spent 3,300 hours at work before the global economic crisis hit - about 200 hours more a year than a decade before.

The biggest increase in working time comes from families in the bottom half of the income distribution. But the biggest income gains of the decade were enjoyed by the richest 10 per cent - and they were the only group that saw no increase in working time over the decade.

We may all long for a world where there is always someone to take care of things at home, and there is steady, comfortable income coming through the door. Stephen Harper and I grew up in such a world. But we can't turn back the clock.

Today's reality is that it is getting harder for young families to get into and stay in the middle class. Today, with rare exceptions, it takes two to do it. We need policies that meaningfully address that reality.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Just released - this is the interim report by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

"If there is something that is even more shocking than the violence itself, it is the silence within which this violence is allowed to continue. It is that silence which is perhaps the greatest shame of all. It is the silence of those of us in the majority who chose to turn a blind eye to this violence—cases of missing Aboriginal daughters and mothers which never make the headlines; epidemics of suicide which don’t elicit an outpouring of concern and outrage from the non-Aboriginal community. It is this silence which is complicit in allowing the situation to continue. It is this silence which sends the message that we don’t care, that we don’t want to care, that we won’t pull all the stops to say “enough”."

You can read the report here. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Women voters hold key to Tory majority; Election platform targets those caring for the young and the infirm

So women will be a target population for this election - vote May 2nd. What do we want? And what is the record? And If there is another minority government elected, (which is pretty likely) what party has the best chance of making it work??

Here are 50 of the ridings where it's a close call (from the Globe and Mail)

2. Western Arctic / LEANING NDP
3. Nunavut / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
4. Burnaby-Douglas / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
5. Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
6. Newton-North Delta / LEANING LIBERAL
7. Saanich-Gulf Islands / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
8. Vancouver Island North / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
9. Vancouver Kingsway / LEANING NDP
10. Vancouver South / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
11. Edmonton-Strathcona / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
12. Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
13. Winnipeg North / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
14. Winnipeg South Centre / LEANING LIBERAL
15. Oak Ridges-Markham / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
16. Brampton West / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
17. Brampton-Springdale / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
18. Bramalea-Gore-Malton / LEANING LIBERAL
19. Mississauga-Erindale / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
20. York Centre / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
21. Mississauga South / LEANING LIBERAL
22. Eglinton-Lawrence / LEANING LIBERAL
23. Trinity-Spadina / LEANING NDP
24. Guelph / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
25. Kitchener Centre / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
26. Kitchener-Waterloo / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
27. London North Centre / LEANING LIBERAL
29. Kingston and the Islands / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
30. Sault Ste. Marie / LEANING NDP
33. Papineau / LEANING LIBERAL
34. Outremont / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
36. Gatineau / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
38. Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
41. Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
42. Beauport-Limoilou / LEANING CONSERVATIVE
43. St. John's South -Mount Pearl / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
47. Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
48. Saint John / TOO CLOSE TO CALL
49. Dartmouth-Cole Harbour / LEANING LIBERAL
50. South Shore-St. Margaret's / LEANING CONSERVATIVE

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Women in National Parliaments

Did you know that Canada ranks 52nd in the world for the percentage of women's representation in Parliament?

The data in the table was compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the basis of information provided by National Parliaments by 31 January 2011. 188 countries are classified by descending order of the percentage of women in the lower or single House. We've got to do something about this!




3South Africa 1









"Costa Rica




15United Republic of Tanzania


17New Zealand



20The F.Y.R. of Macedonia








28Trinidad and Tobago









37Viet Nam




"Lao People's Democratic Republic











50United Arab Emirates



'Tired' Senator makes final push for elder care

The Globe and Mail
Fri Mar 25 2011
Byline: Rod Mickleburgh

VANCOUVER -- Senator Sharon Carstairs has had it. Over the past 16 years, there has been no fiercer a Canadian advocate of better care for the elderly. She has spearheaded two ground-breaking Senate reports on aging, and remains in demand as a speaker, preaching the need for action.
Yet even now, with the first baby boomers turning 65 this year, almost nothing is being done to prepare for the demographic bulge of seniors. There is no comprehensive plan, no national program, not even a firm commitment to deal with frail elders already trapped in the system, many of whom are doomed to spend their final days in misery.
With a sigh and trace of despair in her voice, Senator Carstairs says she is giving up. This fall, she will retire.
"The passion is still with me, but I'm tired," says the former leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party. "You can only do this so long. I give speeches, speeches, speeches ... and we continue to do badly. I will be 69 in April. I'm burnt out."
As a last political gasp, the veteran campaigner is looking to the looming federal election as a way to finally thrust elder care into the national spotlight.
"I would like to see seniors right across the country go to every single meeting and put these questions to all the candidates," Senator Carstairs says from Brussels, where she is the keynote speaker at a conference on aging. "What are you doing about home care? What are you doing about caregivers? What are you doing about an integrated health-care system? Are you going to sit on your hands or are you going to step up and be counted?"
She and other advocates welcomed modest measures in this week's federal budget to aid seniors, including the $2,000 Family Caregiver Tax Credit and $100-million for research on degenerative brain conditions such as dementia, which afflicts an estimated half-million Canadians, most of them over 65.
But the proposed tax break amounts to just over $5 a day, says Rosanne Meandro of the Alzheimer Society of Canada, and applies only if caregivers have a taxable income.
The grim situation and demands for governments to do more are expected to dominate the agenda of Alzheimer's Disease International's annual convention. Researchers, officials and activists from 73 countries will be in Toronto until Tuesday discussing the latest science on, and ways to combat, a disease predicted to double its toll among Canadians within about 25 years.
As well, the call for a national dialogue on how Canadians will live out their final years has been echoed at Boomerangst, an influential convention held in Vancouver last month, and at a packed town-hall meeting in Toronto this month. What does the public expect and how much are people prepared to pay? No one knows, although the issue touches almost every family in the country.
"We have not been able to mobilize the public," admits Carole Estabrooks, a prominent researcher and board member of the federal Institute of Aging. "We need a champion, someone who gets the bit in their teeth and won't let go," she told the audience at Boomerangst, organized by researchers at the University of British Columbia.
The statistics are depressingly familiar:
65 and over is Canada's fastest-growing age group, expected to hit 23 per cent of the population by 2031.
The number of people in their eighties is increasing even faster, with each costing the system an average of $18,000 a year.
Among its 68,000 doctors, Canada has fewer than 300 who specialize in geriatrics.
But a solution is not even on the drawing board, while existing programs barely keep pace.
Long-term care depends on relatively low-paid, minimally trained staff looking after difficult patients, 75 per cent of whom suffer from dementia and will die within a year. Lower Mainland resident Rebecca Maurer saw the problem first hand when she and her sister sought comprehensive care for their mother, incapacitated by a degenerative neurological disorder. "The experience was dreadful," she says.
An initial attempt at home care foundered over inadequate assistance. "The bureaucratic runaround we got was ridiculous."
A six-month stay in a residence was equally disastrous, according to Ms. Maurer. "There were so many difficulties, and the revolving door of staff made it seem like Groundhog Day, the way we had to keep explaining Mom's condition."
Desperate, she and her sister eventually opted for private care, which was better, but not by much, given the cost. "We still discovered medication errors, and we had to be totally involved in seeing that our mother's needs were met, even for $7,000 a month."
With 15 years' experience in and around the health-care system, Ms. Maurer's experience has left her shaken. "If we had trouble, I can't imagine how an average person might navigate the system."
To keep seniors out of hospitals and long-term care, Canada relies on an estimated $25-billion a year of unpaid care by family members. But at some point, loved ones will no longer be able to meet the need."Yes, we need to build more long-term-care beds, but more importantly, we have to develop a home- care system that works in an integrated way with the family caregiver. What we have now is woefully inadequate."
Despite study after study showing that home support is extremely cost- effective, government spending on it comprises less than 4 per cent of total health budgets.
That shortcoming is what brought Senator Carstairs to the fray in the first place. Her mother died at 73, worn out after 10 years of looking after her ailing husband.
Palliative-care facilities also fall far short. Although the situation has improved in recent years, only about 30 per cent of those who would like the option get it. And the number of annual deaths is projected to increase from about 250,000 to 430,000 by 2031. "If we can't care for our dying," Senator Carstairs asks, "what kind of a society are we?"
Last fall, as part of a special project on Canada's dementia dilemma, The Globe and Mail presented this seven-stage national action plan for "confronting the crisis."
1. Keep people at home as long as possible
2. Make sure institutional care is available and appropriate
3. Train specialists to find proper care for each patient
4. Delay the decline with early diagnosis and prompt treatment
5. Guarantee family caregivers the help they need
6. Teach Canadians to keep their brains in good health
7. Increase research investment significantly
To read Confronting the Crisis and subsequent coverage of the issue, please visit Globe Life's
online dementia hub at
Free home care for all over 65 in Denmark
As they struggle with care for the elderly, Canadians may want to look to tiny but dynamic Denmark.
Tine Rostgaard of the country's National Centre of Social Research says Danes enjoy free home care for everyone over 65 (around the clock, if needed) including such basic services as cleaning and shopping. Also, those over 75 are eligible for an annual home assessment by a nurse to determine what extra care may be needed to head off future problems. According to Ms. Rostgaard, added services sparked by the visits have led to improved functional ability among seniors as well as a decline in mortality and fewer admissions to hospitals and nursing homes. "It gives the elderly better well-being and healthier lives."
Danes who do end up in long-term care are accommodated in private rooms with their own doorbells. Pets are allowed to enhance a homey feel. Because of the emphasis on keeping seniors at home, just 20 per cent of Denmark's spending on the elderly goes to institutional care, compared with 80 per cent in Canada. Government-funded services are provided to 25 per cent of Danes over 65, the highest rate in the world; it's 10 per cent in Canada.
Rod Mickleburgh
Percentage of Canada's population expected to be 65 and over by 2031.
Average annual per-person cost for people in their eighties.
Percentage of Canadian doctors who specialize in geriatrics.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Funding Cuts that affected these organizations that served women, children and families

1. Aboriginal Healing Foundation (cuts affected several healing centres that focused on providing support to abused women, such as the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal)
2. Action travail des femmes
3. Alberta Network of Immigrant Women
4. Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale (AFEAS)
5. Canadian Child Care Federation
6. Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)
7. Centre de documentation sur l'éducation des adultes et la condition féminine
8. Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
9. Child Care Resource and Research Unit, SpeciaLink
10. Conseil d'intervention pour l'accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)
11. Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women Toronto (funding cut by CIC in December 2010)
12. Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia
13. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
14. International Planned Parenthood Federation
15. Marie Stopes International, a maternal health agency, has received only a promise of "conditional" funding IF it avoids any & all connection with abortion
16. MATCH International
17. National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
18. Native Women's Association of Canada
19. New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
20. Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
21. Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
22. Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
23. Riverdale Immigrant Women's Centre, Toronto
24. Sisters in Spirit
25. South Asian Women's Centre
26. Status of Women Canada (mandate also changed to exclude "gender equality and political justice" and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying)
27. Tri-Country Women's Centre Society
28. Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)
29. Women for Community Economic Development in Southwest Nova Scotia (WCEDSN)
30. Women's Innovative Justice Initiative - Nova Scotia
31. Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program For a PDF of this list , please click here.

We are heading to an election!

Yes, it happened today - Parliment is dissolved and there will be an election. Probably May 2nd. Some of the issues being discussed will affted women, children and families. We will highlight the different views, and background material here. Information that might form the basis of questions you can ask your candidate. So make sure you follow along!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Microfinance Is Much More Than Just Credit"

Kanya D'Almeida interviews MARY ELLEN ISKENDERIAN of Women's World Banking

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 23 (IPS) - A day after U.S. assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs Robert Blake appealed to the Bangladeshi government to reconsider its dismissal of 70-year-old microfinance guru Muhammad Yunus from the Grameen Bank, IPS spoke with the president and CEO of Women's World Banking (WWB), currently the most comprehensive network of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the world.

Mary Ellen Iskenderian, who has worked with WWB for well over a decade, believes that what she calls a political smear campaign against Yunus has no bearing on the tangible changes provoked by MFIs.

She dismissed the notion, which is swiftly gaining momentum in many quarters, that microcredit is ineffective as a sustainable method of poverty alleviation and must be replaced.

Iskenderian argues that the long-term positive impact of MFIs and their projects in the global south will help to close the poverty gap and empower rural, third world women – a population who shoulders the brunt of structural inequality.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: How has Muhammad Yunus's dismissal from Grameen Bank affected WWB?

A: We were very concerned about what the general public might think and what this confusion would do for the "microfinance brand" so to speak – it's extremely unfortunate that his dismissal has nothing to do with microfinance and is in reality nothing but a politically motivated move against the founder of Grameen Bank.

Bangladesh is a place in which you can literally track the positive impact of microfinance efforts on poverty reduction and it's very disheartening that political officials are attempting to discredit this.

Q: How has WWB dealt with this media blow?

A: We're trying as hard as we can to get the word out about how effective microfinance has been. Today microfinance is so much more than just credit – we are working on a whole range of other products that can add a level of security to low-income households to soften the repeated blows of poverty.

Q: How does WWB respond to the barrage of critique that has come at MFIs and the MF industry in recent years? Does WWB share any of the concerns of critics of MF?

A: We feel that there is a much bigger story that isn't always being told in its entirety. While giving women access to credit achieves short-term goals - such as allowing women to build small businesses - the long-term changes created by women who choose wisely how to expend the income generated from these activities is often ignored.

For example, a woman who owns her own business often makes wise investments that lead to structural change over a longer period of time – the education of her children, for instance. Those changes happen much more slowly than the few months dedicated to a controlled study allow you to see.

The impact of a family allowing a girl child to be educated rather than pulling her out of school to contribute a small amount of income towards the household is enormous – but it cannot be observed and recorded during the duration of a research study. Some of the critique, despite being well- intentioned, does not present an accurate picture of the kind of change microfinance is capable of inducing.

Q: Are there any examples that saliently address these critiques?

A: I would look at one of our earlier members, Sewa Bank in Gujarat, India, which does not just dispense credit but also mobilises savings. One of the most salient aspects of this is that institutions who can take deposits not only ensure their clients greater stability and security, but the institutions themselves can secure a stable source of low- cost local currency funding by way of deposits.

Sewa is not only interested in providing enterprise credit and agricultural credit but is also taking savings and making highly successfully pension-products so that women can save for the long term. Sewa also provides healthcare on the ground, through what they call the 'barefoot doctors', as well as health insurance.

Sewa is a great example of the kind of institution in our network that is very focused on a woman's life cycle needs. As the CEO of Sewa always says, "poverty is like a game of chutes and ladders" – by which she means unpredictable events can destroy everything a woman has built in her life and MFIs like Sewa can protect against that kind of catastrophe.

Q: Does WWB believe in alternatives such as peasant cooperatives? Are you dedicated to bringing more women from the grassroots to the decision-making table at the highest level?

A: Absolutely. You've hit the nail right on the head. We think one of the most worrying trends is that as more private and commercial banks come into the picture, fewer and fewer women are visible in the ranks and staff of microfinance at the executive level, the senior level and even at the loan officers' level.

The question then becomes, how can you design a product to help poor women without consulting women on the issue? WWB is very strict in any product launch that we do with our members. We do market research as a first step and talk to the community organisations and to grassroots leaders to find out what they're actually looking for.

Since women tend to save more than men we always consult with women when designing savings products. Most of these women need confidentiality because they don't want their husbands or neighbours to know they're saving. So coming up with saving mechanisms where women can formally save money in their own name without the knowledge of the community needs to be built into our product design.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Welcome to the NCWC Blog!

We will now be able to share articles and news that will be of interest to NCWC members, and the broader public who support the work of NCWC.

Come back often and leave your comments - We look forward to hearing from you.

More information about the National Council of Women is available on our web site.