Women's World Banking Announces New Board of Trustees as Part of Three-Year Strategic Plan

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Four New Members and New Chair Will Work in 2009 to Raise Awareness of the Importance of Investing in Women as a Way to Foster Long-Term Economic Development

The decision to revamp our governance structure through the seating of a new board is an important step in the broader transformation that Women's World Banking has undertaken in the last two years to become a more innovative, effective and efficient organization.

Women's World Banking (WWB), the world's largest global network of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and banks dedicated to the economic empowerment of low-income women, recently announced its new Board of Trustees, which included the election of four new members and a new Chair. The election of the new board officers is part of a broader revamp designed to make the WWB board more efficient and better positioned to carry out WWB's ambitious strategic plan, which includes refocusing the organization's core mission on women. The Board was reduced from 21 members to 13, including honorary members Michaela Walsh, WWB's Founding President, and Ela Bhatt, founder of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) and a member of The Elders, the organization founded by Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu.

"As microfinance continues to evolve at an astonishing pace, microfinance institutions are facing the challenge of how to best adapt and succeed in a rapidly changing landscape - and Women's World Banking, as an organization, must also change and innovate to best serve our network members," said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of Women's World Banking. "The decision to revamp our governance structure through the seating of a new board is an important step in the broader transformation that Women's World Banking has undertaken in the last two years to become a more innovative, effective and efficient organization."

The new board members are: Sonia Dulá, Head of Investment Banking for Latin America, Merrill Lynch; Sheila Hooda, Senior Managing Director, Global Head of Strategy and Development and Senior Leadership Team Member of TIAA-CREF; Suzanne Nora Johnson, Senior Director of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.; and Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and President of Kashf Foundation in Pakistan. Inger Elisabeth Prebensen, previously the Board's Vice Chair, was elected the new Chair. Prebensen recently retired as Deputy Director of Technology and General Services Department at the International Monetary Fund, and was previously Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Postbank of Norway.

WWB's Board has fiduciary responsibility for the organization and is charged with approving WWB's policies, strategies and annual budgets. One of its current priorities is overseeing the organization's ambitious strategic plan, introduced when president and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian took the helm of the organization in 2006. Under Iskenderian's leadership, the organization is pioneering innovative solutions that set the standard for the industry as a whole - including helping MFIs diversify their product offerings, implement effective marketing strategies, and successfully transition from group to individual lending models.

As a result, WWB's network members are becoming stronger than ever. With an outstanding loan portfolio of $1.4 billion, the MFIs in the WWB network consistently rank among the top three microfinance institutions in their respective countries and, in 2007, ten WWB network members were named to Forbes' first-ever list of the world's top 50 MFIs. Currently, WWB network members are growing their financial resources (and hence their customer bases) at a rate of 30 percent per year.

"Our new board will play a key role in WWB's efforts to build global awareness of microfinance as a viable way to invest in poor women entrepreneurs and fight poverty around the world, and provide MFIs with the tools they need to grow to scale and expand microfinance products and services to a greater number of the world's poor, said Iskenderian. "Given our renewed focus on raising awareness of the incredible results that can be achieved when a poor woman is given access to the tools of financial empowerment, I am particularly pleased that our new board will be led by such a distinguished group of women, who understand first-hand the power of women helping women."

The additional members of the WWB Board, all of whom are recognized leaders in banking, finance, business, law, community organizing, or women's economic participation, are: Clara Akerman, founding member of Fundación WWB Colombia; Marilou van Golstein Brouwers, Managing Director of Triodos Investment Management, BV; Mary Houghton, President of ShoreBank Corporation; Humaira Islam, Founder and Executive Director of Shakti Foundation for Disadvantaged Women; Diana Medman, leader of the Russian Women's Microfinance Network and Director of AO Bioprocess; Jennifer Riria, Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Women Finance Trust.

About Women's World Banking (WWB)

WWB is a global network of 54 microfinance providers and banks, working in 30 countries to bring financial products and services to low-income entrepreneurs, especially women. The network serves 11 million microentrepreneurs directly, and another 10 million indirectly through its bank partners and other regional networks. WWB is supported by an international team of experts based in New York that delivers expertise in product design and distribution, access to capital markets, and customer care and insight. For more information on WWB, please visit its website at http://www.womensworldbanking.org.

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