Reflecting on 2018 and looking forward
Oikocredit Canada Newsletter
March 2019

Gender equality and a stronger social impact

The start of a new year presents an opportunity for self-reflection and new ambitions. Oikocredit International's Managing Director, Thos Gieskes, looks back 2018 and offers a financial outlook for 2019 for Oikocredit in this article

As we reflect on this year's International Development Week theme of "Together for Gender Equality" and celebrate International Women's day, we recognize that social impact and gender equality remains firmly at the heart of our work. This commitment to gender equality is highlighted in this newsletter’s stories from Indonesia and Peru and from our experiences during #IDW2019.

Now, with the year well underway, our renewed strategy is the framework around which we’re shaping our organization. We’re highlighting our new Vision & Strategy document in this newsletter as essential reading for all Oikocredit’s stakeholders.

We invite you to connect with us to help find more ways to engage with Canadians through shared learning, networking and capacity building opportunities. We look forward to continuing with you on the journey towards a successful and sustainable future, and to delivering on Oikocredit’s important mission for many years to come.


Empowering women in Indonesia through financial inclusion

“We started a small business in 2004 after years of working for other people. We joined the Komida cooperative in 2009 and used our first loan to buy woks which we still use now. The business is doing well and we employ 10 neighbours to help us keep up with demand.”

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“Money doesn’t care how you look or how old you are.”

During the recent study tour to Peru, our group of investors, staff and volunteers met some very inspiring people. One example is Dimas Morales, a chicken farmer and client of our partner ProEmpresa, who has grown her business despite challenging circumstances.

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Market access for farmers in India

Oikocredit partner Y-Cook produces healthy, fresh and ready-to-eat food products. The company sources produce from 1,300 smallholder farmers, one of whom is Krishna Muthy (right). “Before we worked with Y-Cook we didn’t grow sweet corn. With corn we now have fixed prices, which are much better,” he says.

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Oikocredit Joins OCIC's Transformations Exhibit

Transformations: Stories of Partnership, Resilience and Positive Change is an award-winning collaborative photojournalism initiative intended to increase dialogue and further understanding of international partnerships that address complex global challenges. Among those profiled are Eugene Ellmen, former National Director, Oikocredit Canada, who comments, “Not a lot of people are thinking about whether they are fundamentally making a change.”

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Oikocredit's updated strategy

We recently published our updated Vision and Strategy 2018-2022 which sets out our strategic ambitions and direction for the future development of Oikocredit. One of our key objectives is to maximise social impact.

more >

A new operating model

We interviewed Oikocredit’s Director of Investments, Bart van Eyk to find out more about the changes taking place as a result of our updated strategy, and how the new regional set-up will enable us to better serve our partners and enhance our social impact.

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Reflections on International Development Week: Together for Gender Equality

Discussing gender equality strategies

Jack Bolland


On February 6th, 2019, Oikocredit Canada, in partnership with the Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC), Engineers without BordersCuso International, Crossroads InternationalEQWIP HUBs and Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO), hosted an event at the Centre of Social Innovation in Toronto on ‘Together for Gender Equality’. Oikocredit Canada not only sponsored the event, but also participated in a youth-led panel discussion on international work placements, gender specific programming, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Canada’s role and opportunity to support gender equality. Gatherings such as these are necessary to encourage dialogue about the intersectionality between gender and social development, raise aware of issues about progress and transformation, raise awareness about issues and successes, share experiences and stories, advocate for injustice and promote equality.


The incorporation of a gender-sensitive, community-based approach to international development has become increasingly critical for organizations to sustain their impact, build resilient economic and social growth, and achieve their goals. This method has been central to Oikocredit’s business model since its inception in 1975. Rather than applying a gender lens, gender equality is baked into Oikocredit’s investment pillars to finance projects and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that: create jobs and income for disadvantaged people, promote women in management and/or employment and strive for positive environmental impact. In fact, of the 36 million inclusive finance clients reached by Oikocredit, 84% of beneficiaries are female. This is what I admire about Oikocredit.


The most impactful organizations are those that actively listen to the needs, experiences and feelings of vulnerable communities, so that they can gain a holistic understanding of their specific challenges, establish trust and formulate a solution that leaves all stakeholders better off. To implement an effective solution, distributing resources, such as capital, training, technology, is necessary to give individuals the tools they need to empower themselves and their communities. 

In order for these resources to be deployed efficiently, investments in certain foundations, such as health and education, must be maintained, especially in places with complex historical, cultural and political backgrounds. Oikocredit fulfills these requirements through their longstanding commitment to provide disadvantaged entrepreneurs with reoccurring loan capital, continuous capacity building for clients and innovative finance structures for emerging businesses, all while allowing Canadian citizens to contribute to global equality. Technological advancements make it possible to breakdown one of the most harrowing barriers facing entrepreneurs in developing countries: lack of financial access. 

Jack Bolland (left) and fellow panelists

As Canada positions itself to be a leader in gender equality, Canadians and our associated organizations are presented with a unique opportunity to shape and influence development initiatives through collective action, knowledge sharing and strategic partnerships. As Canadians, we have an important responsibility to advocate for gender equality and encourage others to adopt the Canadian values of inclusion, compassion and equity.


Students engage on issues about sustainability and growth

Ife Kolade


During International Development Week from February 4 to 10, 2019 I attended two events on behalf of Oikocredit, which gave me a chance to make new connections  while deepening my knowledge of the great work that continues to be done by other organizations in the international development sphere.

Karl Braun & Samir Janmohamed, President IDSAY. Photo by Humayra Safa

The first event I attended during the week, held at York University, was a partnership between Oikocredit and the International Development Student Association at York (IDSAY). Through Oikocredit Board member, Karl Braun,  the event gave students at York University the opportunity to learn about microfinance,  Oikocredit’s 693 partners worldwide, and their recent intiatives. Students were particularly interested to learn about Oikocredit’s emphasis on supporting female entrepreneurs and the myriad of reasons why female empowerment is core to Oikocredit’s mission.


The second event that I had the opportunity to attend was Currents, the annual development conference at the University of Toronto Scarborough. This student run, day long conference was an amazing opportunity to hear from speakers from various backgrounds in the development field and to learn from the upcoming generation of development leaders, the current students. In fact, throughout the day, I was repeatedly impressed by the thoughtful questions the student attendees brought to the table.

During a panel on global citizenship, speakers were asked about ways of affecting widespread global change. Prateek Awasthi, a panellist and representative of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), noted that social change is the result of years and years of community organizing. Yes, there are moments of large social upheaval but “there was never an end colonization day”. This comment, and others from the panel, led to an in-depth discussion about one of the more popular social gatherings meant to affect social change – WE Day. Audience members questioned their experiences with WE Day and other similar events, as well as the actual impact of these events on creating lasting momentum and tangible change. This type of questioning the “junk food of public engagement”, a phrase coined by Stuart Hickox from the One Campaign, was a common thread during the conference.

Ife Kolade & Karl Braun with the IDSAY team. Photo by Mehnaz Hossain

As a former international development studies student, I left the two events optimistic. Both events underscored that there continues to be interest in tackling global poverty and addressing gender inequality. But perhaps most importantly, and this was very evident at the Currents conference, development practitioners are no longer looking at solutions that work within unsustainable systems. The systems and models of wealth distribution and economic opportunity are being questioned more loudly. Just like microfinance was an innovation when the movement first began in the 1970s, the next generation of development practitioners are working to create 21st century innovative solutions.

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