Toktok with Gima Kepi on “Supporting women led enterprises in Resource Rich Host Communities”

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Gima Kepi third from left. Source MiBank FB Page
Gima Kepi third from left. Source MiBank FB Page

Gima Kepi is the Manager for the Financial Inclusion Unit of MiBank. She’s just participated in a round-table discussion on “Supporting women led enterprises in Resource Rich Host Communities”.

We caught up with Gima last week and she was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Hi Gima, thank you for accepting our invitation to talk a little about your recent participation in a round-table discussion.

Apart from yourself, who else participated in these discussions and what positions do they hold in their respective organisations?

Dr Muza Gondwe is the Alumni Co-ordinator for Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance.  Ms Susan Ferguson is a Counsellor for Gender and Sport – Australian High Commission.  Dr Rowena Varela is Vice President for Research & Extension/Project Leader, Caraga State University, The Philippines.  Ms Janet Sape, the President for PNG Women in Business. Mr John Ipidari, Manager – Project Coordination for Mineral Resources Authority, Ms Rosemary Benjamin – Founder of Allegiance Health, Mr Samuel James – Economic Policy Officer for the Investment Promotions Authority, Ms Lesley Bennet a Consultant and of course myself Ms Gima Kepi, Manager of the Financial Inclusion Unit of MiBank

What exactly is the round table discussion about “Supporting women led enterprises in Resource Rich Host Communities”

The purpose of the roundtable was to bring the industry, government, academia and civil society together to help improve knowledge and understanding of good practices, challenges and opportunities for supporting women to establish and sustain businesses in resource rich host communities in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

The roundtable provided the opportunity for a delegation from the Philippines to share lessons learnt from their study tour to Papua New Guinea on women led enterprises. Papua New Guinea had been identified by the Philippine delegation as a country with good practices on women’s economic empowerment. The key learnings from the study tour were presented by Dr Rowena Varela, Caraga State University and included that the PNG private sector, donors and the government champion women’s leadership and empowerment by having separate budget lines for projects that support women; empowering women involves capacity building in skills such as: farming, financial management and other life skills through approaches such as peer learning and that the success of women-led enterprises should be based on co-designed indicators.

The roundtable also provided opportunity for dialogue between government, industry, academia and bilateral donors on enablers and drivers for successful “women in business” that drew on practical experiences.

The roundtable was organised by the Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance (MEfDA), a partnership of The University ofWestern Australia and the University of Queensland, with funds from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

What relevance does this discussion have on PNG or how important are these discussions to PNG?

The evidence is overwhelming that women’s economic empowerment can significantly improve the livelihoods of families, communities and the nation. UN Women reports 90% of women’s income is reinvested back into the household, whereas men reinvest only 30 to 40% and that when women have more influence over economic decisions, their families allocate more income to food, health, education, children’s clothing and children’s nutrition. However globally (not just in Papua New Guinea) women entrepreneurs face a number of challenges including raising capital, limited access to industry networks and connections, lack of business and financial skills, lack of role models and mentors, lack of confidence, care responsibilities and lack of support networks.This roundtable provided an opportunity to consider approaches to some of these barriers. Peer learning, microfinance and role models were some of the approaches that were discussed at the roundtable.

How often hasMiBank contributed in these discussions?

This was the first time that MiBank contributed at these discussions.

Why isMiBank contributing to these discussions?

MiBank through the Financial Inclusion Unit has a role to play in overcoming barriers for women entrepreneurs. During the study tour the delegation met with Ms.Gima Kepi who participated in discussions at Business Coalition for Women. Ms Kepi elucidated the role of financing mechanisms for women and the long term ongoing support required to improve women’s financial literacy. She also highlighted the importance of peer learning in empowering women.

How isMiBank contributing to these discussions or what positive contributions is MiBank doing to this discussion as a whole?

MiBank prides itself on diversity and women’s banking is a key focus area under the Financial Inclusion Unit which Gima Kepi oversees. The Bank empowers women and grassroots people generally through financial literacy training and access to its products and services. To date, MiBank has outreached to over 6,000 rural based women across the country through partnership programs, thus the increase of its women clients from 20% in 2013 to 39% to date, majority of whom have carried out mobile bank (Micash) transactions. At the end of December 2015, of the total of over140,000 savings accounts, 39% were women account holders; and of the total of over 2,000 loans disbursed, 35% were women borrowers”.

Therefore, MiBank’s positive contributions to these discussions are based on the rich knowledge base of its experience in the rural areas throughout PNG since 2012, through the integrated roll out of financial literacy with mobile banking to marginalised communities particularly women. Key stakeholders such as the ones who participated at the Roundtable discussions are able to replicate this life-changing concept to other communities or countries, so that more rural based women can participate to improve their livelihoods and expand their micro entrepreneurial activities.

What personal experiences have the attendees (i.e. MiBank personnel) gained from attending these discussions?

An opportunity to build self-confidence through public speaking, enhance networking skills as well as educational in terms of learning more about other industries and other countries, in this case Philippines.

Thank you very much Gima. Best wishes from us here at Skerah!