Respecting & protecting the rights of the women we work with

Tomorrow, 15th March, is World Consumer Rights Day“How does that relate to MicroLoan Foundation?”, I hear you cry. Well, it’s an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers and ensure their rights are respected and protected. And, the women we serve, are ultimately, our consumers. As a socially-driven organisation, respecting and protecting the rights of the women we work with, is at the heart of all we do.

Like our friends at The Smart Campaign, we believe that it’s not just enough to deliver financial services and training to the women we support. The quality and care with which these services are delivered is key. We believe that all of our clients deserve to be treated fairly, and to have the necessary education to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

So to mark this day, we thought we’d take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about how we’re ensuring the rights of the women we work with are respected and protected:

  • We’re setting up a brand new Research and Development Department this year to formalise the way we collect information about our clients. The Department will look at what is working, and what’s not working well for our clients. This will enable us to really understand our clients and develop products and services that best meet their needs. Because ultimately, that’s why we’re here.
  • Over the past couple of years, we’ve been working tirelessly too design training that specifically meets the needs of our clients, many of whom have no formal education. So, the training uses adult learning methodologies (a fancy way of saying it uses stories, songs, pictures, role plays etc) to bring the training to life. It makes it fun, relevant to the women, and ensures that everyone can benefit, no matter their literacy level. We’re really proud of our training, in case you couldn’t tell.
  • All of our clients receive training. No one can access our loans without our training. This covers things like how to work out business costs and how to work out the right sized loan. It even covers things like how to work together as a group when something goes wrong for a group member. All of this stuff helps make sure that our clients don’t get “over indebted” (borrow too much money), which is one of the main criticisms of microfinance.
  • We have a Rights and Responsibilities document which all clients and staff are trained in and must commit to before loans are disbursed. It covers the responsibilities of the clients e.g. supporting other women in the group, as well as those of the Loan Officers e.g. treating clients with respect, not accepting payments or gifts for their services. This document is read out at the start of each loan cycle (usually 4 months) to ensure everyone is committed to it.
  • We have a client hotline for any clients who have concerns, complaints or comments – complaints are dealt with and resolved usually on the same day. Reports are circulated to Senior Management and wherever necessary, further steps and action will be taken to ensure complaints are dealt with.
  • Loan terms (e.g. repayment dates) are communicated openly and transparently to clients, in the local language. This ensures that clients fully understand and know what they are committing to.
  • The Code of Ethics includes appropriate collections guidelines and all field staff are assessed on their compliance with this as part of their performance assessments. It all relates to fair and respectful treatment of clients.
  • These are just some of the ways we’re ensuring the women we are here to support are respected and their rights protected at all times. We’re proud to be an endorser of the Smart Campaign, which outlines client protection guidelines. Read more here –  http://www.smartcampaign.org/about/smart-microfinance-and-the-client-protection-principles