Where is Microfinance Headed? Essma Ben Hamida Interview Kicks Off ‘Microfinance Matters’ Series

> Posted by Jon Pattee
Why do so many capable people put their lives into building the microfinance industry? What do they hope to accomplish? What motivates them? Why do they think microfinance is a solution? Are they pleased with the results? The Center for Financial Inclusion is interviewing founders, pioneers, and entrepreneurs in order to answer these questions and capture the scale and impact of microfinance in today’s world.
Over the course of 2011, we will bring you a score of such interviews from microfinance leaders around the globe. These authentic voices will speak about what is most meaningful to them in their work. We begin with a Tunisian trailblazer…

Essma Ben Hamida

Opening Minds and Empowering Women with Microfinance

In the early 1990s, after returning from Europe to her native Tunisia, Essma Ben Hamida felt it a revelation to notice something that had always been part of her world: When she walked through the poor neighborhoods of Tunis, there were very few women who had a business.

As the co-founder of Enda Inter-Arabe, a non-governmental organization promoting vocational training for school drop-outs and health orientation for women, Essma met regularly with small groups of women to learn their views and see how best to serve them. In one of these Enda discussion circles, Essma asked the women if they were busy. In unison, they said no. They explained that they were occupied caring for their families, but could not work because they had no capital.  The women’s response carried Essma back to scenes of her family home. Growing up in Kairouan, Essma observed how non-working women like her mother didn’t have access to money.

“The women were always dependent on their fathers or husbands to give them money for housekeeping. This situation struck me as almost a form of begging,” she remembers.

To read more of the interview with Essma Ben Hamida, click here.