Mercedes Canalda de Beras-Goico, president of REDCAMIF

Mercedes Canalda et Ivan Gutierrez

« There are women in most of the project positions »

Lic. Canalda was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She has a degree in economics and a Master's degree in business administration.

From 1985 to 1993 she worked in the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic in different areas ranging from economics to international affairs.
From 2003 onward she has been the CEO of Banco de Ahorro y Crédito Adopem, S. A.

Presently she is the Executive Director of the Asociación Dominicana para el Desarrollo de la Mujer, Inc. ( ADOPEM NGO: Dominican Association for the Development of Women), founding member of the Red Dominicana y del Caribe de Microfinanzas (REDOMIF Association: Dominican and Caribbean Network of Microfinance), Chair of REDOMIF, Chair of the Red Centroamericana y del Caribe de Microfinanzas (REDCAMIF: Central American and Caribbean Network of Microfinance), former Chair of the Consejo de Fundaciones Americanas de Desarrollo (SOLIDARIOS: Council of American Foundations for Development) and former President and present member of the Board of the Asociación de Bancos de Ahorro y Préstamo y Corporaciones de Crédito de República Dominicana (ABANCORD: Association of Savings and Loan Banks and Credit Corporations of the Dominican Republic), Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Alianza NGO, and member of the Board of Directors of Fondomicro.
Mrs. Canalda has been an international consultant for organizations with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), Women´s World Banking (WWB); she has also been a professor for over 15 years at several local universities and a lecturer at international events and international universities.

She leverages her position in order to help low income Dominicans enter the formal economic system through loans they use to undertake their own businesses.

As part of International Women's Day on March 8, 2019, Mercedes Canalda de Beras-Goico gave her testimony on her vision of women in the world of microfinance.

You replaced Carlos Rojas Hidalgo as Chair of REDCAMIF during the summer of 2018.  As a woman, would you say you have given REDCAMIF a different outlook?
Upon assuming the Chair of REDCAMIF, I found a structured organization with good processes where every local structure participates in its Board of Directors. As a woman the opportunity was to engage in the promotion of equity. When I asked myself how was I to change REDCAMIF, my first approach to the Network was to get to know its team, its human talent group, who was every member of the staff.  I was surprised to find a fair amount of gender equity. There were women in most of the project positions, which is good. These women can have a growing and successful career path, and these postings are quite frequent in banking at board level where women are represented too. In REDCAMIF out of 7 countries represented in the Board, 3 directors are women including me. It is not a 50-50 parity but close to it thus generating a different perspective in the Board.

What are the main goals/challenges of REDCAMIF's for the inclusion of women in the region of Central America and the Caribbean?
From a woman perspective, the first challenge is empowerment: the leadership we need in order to generate impact on better management and a greater market outreach. Women not only have the capability but also the sensitivity of achieving.
The second challenge for the Network is to generate a better knowledge of women clients. Our center is not the product, but the client: understanding that the needs of men and women are different and focusing on those needs.

You have also been a member of the Board of ADOPEM Bank for over 20 years, one of the largest institutions of the Dominican Republic. What are the main benefits that microfinance offers to the women of this country?
Firstly, to give them access to financial and non-financial products and services, as a tool to leverage their development and leadership. Women assume very important roles so we cannot afford to be confused because it has an impact on the lives of people, on our century... we are talking about education, integrity and responsibility... Women like me, and mainly in the culture of our Latino countries, assume this role. And responsibility is very important for future generations. You need to ensure this fundamental and delicate balance between your responsibilities, your administrative management and your being an entrepreneur.

There is a myth about the difficulty of balancing the private and professional lives of women, what do you think about it?
I seek the positive side of wives. From that perspective, women have the challenge of distributing their time between the urgent, the important and the truly relevant. In my case I have different roles: I am in REDOMIF, REDCAMIF, SOLIDARIOS; I am the CEO of ADOPEM Bank, I also work as Executive Director of ADOPEM NGO... The key is to know what is your role in every institutional instance. For example, I never set a meeting on my children's or my husband's birthdays. I enjoyed my children during the different stages of my life; these were sacrifices I had to make.
There is another sacrifice for the professional development that has to be taken into account. We made a research and spotted another important myth, because businesses run by men grow faster than those of women. In the case of the Dominican Republic, women lack the capacity to reinvest into their businesses. Men and women do not reinvest the same proportion of profits, because women have a greater marginal propensity to save, to invest in education and housing and to spend in food. Then it is not just a matter of time, or multitasking: it is about responsibility. So, when a woman can invest 15% or 17% of her profits to grow her business, a man typically invests 35% or 40%. This concept is noteworthy but we’ll have to find out how to invest much more profitably, and to develop more efficient businesses.

Do you have a message for women entrepreneurs?
I would like to motivate women entrepreneurs to keep training and educating themselves, I want to tell them not to set a limit to their dreams. The human being possesses the very important capability of dreaming, so as long as you are able to dream about what you can achieve, you have the possibility of turning your challenges into reality.

On the picture: Mercedes Canalda de Beras-Goico (President of REDCAMIF) and Iván Gutiérrez Aguirre (Executive Director de REDCAMIF) on the ADA stand during the European Microfinance Week in Luxembourg from 14 to 16 November 2018.

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