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Berkley Middle-incomers best served by CUs
WASHINGTON (3/26/12)--No one does more for middle-income Americans than credit unions, U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) told members of the Global Women's Leadership Network, a World Council of Credit Unions initiative devoted to connecting women credit union leaders worldwide.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) addresses members and supporters during the 2012 Global Women's Leadership Network breakfast Wednesday during the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference last week in Washington, D.C.
Berkley addressed the network as part of the group's annual breakfast meeting, sponsored by CU*Answers and held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts on Wednesday during the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference last week in Washington, D.C.

The breakfast was attended by more than 100 members and supporters. The three breakfast speakers represent leaders from inside and outside the industry and all share a mutual dedication to the global credit union movement.

Berkley, who has been involved with credit unions since the 1970s and has supported credit union legislation throughout her career, thanked credit unions for providing critical services in her home district and across the country in neighborhoods and communities ignored by other financial service providers. Berkley specifically cited credit union loans to small and women-owned businesses and college loans as vital contributions to economic growth.

"Credit unions are making it possible for thousands and thousands of students to go to college," said Berkley, who urged  attendees to continue blazing a trail of increased member service around the country.

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Elkanah Odembo discusses what is currently happening in Kenya's credit unions Wednesday during the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference last week in Washington, D.C.  (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Elkanah Odembo, U.S. ambassador to Kenya, also addressed the network and provided insight into changes current among Kenya's credit unions. Kenya's Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), as credit unions are called there, are a young, male-dominated movement with less than 40 years of development experience. Because of recent legislative changes, one-third of the management and governance positions in Kenya's SACCOs will be filled by women in the upcoming months.

"Women are the backbone of our development," Odembo explained, "Over the next five years, the role of women will be very significant in transforming our economy."

Roxy Ostrem, board chair of Ventura (Calif.) County CU, also spoke to the network about how her credit union is reaching out to agricultural workers in Ventura County. To reach this group, credit union staff visit employees at their workplaces to conduct credit union business, a step Ostrem said is critical for the credit union to take.

"Many of these workers are of modest means and they have to pay for a ride to work, to get home and to the grocery store to cash their paycheck, which the grocery store then charges $35 to do," Ostrem said. "By going out in the fields, we're saving these members money and we are teaching financial literacy."

The Global Women's Leadership Network is planning an engagement program in May to Ostrem's credit union so other credit unions can learn how to start similar programs. "Get involved if you can," Ostrem said. "We can help the people in our neighborhood, state and across the country."

The network connects credit union women with fellow leaders in other credit union movements all over the world and engages them in professional and personal development through social media and educational forums. It also offers international perspectives on common worldwide challenges--such as growth strategies, alternative capital and operational efficiencies.

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