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Leadership network builds on African womens leadership
GABORONE, Botswana (4/17/12)--Monique Dunbar, training and development manager for $35 million asset Communicating Arts CU in Detroit, traveled to Botswana last month to participate in the Africa Women's Forum, a Global Women's Leadership Network event jointly hosted by the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings & Credit Associations (ACCOSCA) and the Canadian Co-operative Association.

In Botswana last month to participate in the Africa Women's Forum Monique Dunbar of Communicating Arts CU, Detroit, met Ma Hooud (left), a village elder.
Dunbar went to lead sessions on human resource and training initiatives, but left as a student of leadership, said the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). She brought lessons in staff development and retention to Botswana, but she learned as much as she taught. The transference from teacher to student is something not unusual for forum participants, according to Brian Branch, World Council president/CEO.

"The purpose of the Global Women's Leadership Network is to provide women with an international network that engages them in professional and personal development," Branch said. "We are grateful to Canadian Cooperative Association and to Monique for their work to provide this professional development across borders for African credit union women."

The Global Women's Leadership Network, is an initiative co-founded by WOCCU and the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA) to bring together women credit union leaders from around the world. Dunbar had never been to Africa before traveling to Botswana.  Nor had she ever met anyone like Ma Hooud, a Morwa village elder and treasurer for the Morwa Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO or credit union).

Monique Dunbar of Communicating Arts CU, Detroit, brought lessons in staff development and retention to Botswana, but said she learned as much as she taught. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions.)
"She commands great respect in her village," said Dunbar. "The women I met in Africa are so strong, so proud and so resolute that I came away from the experience inspired to succeed."

Dunbar also worked on building rapport with members and boards of directors and striving to reach consensus to pursue credit union goals and objectives. Communication is key, she explained, stressing the need for listening actively in any discussion or negotiations.

"My primary message to the group was to stay positive," Dunbar said. "It's too easy to see so many conflicting demands as a way to keep you from achieving your goals, but you should never stop trying."

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the forum was attended by women from nine African nations: Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda. Dunbar's teachers were many, she said, and their lessons valuable, including an eye-opening view of the mobile banking transaction technology used by SACCO members in Kenya, a program supported by WOCCU.

"Cellphone banking in Kenya is advanced beyond anything we're doing," Dunbar said. "If I could put that work with our members in Detroit, it would be awesome."

Reaching out in ways members need and want to deliver services is critical to success for any credit union or SACCO, Dunbar counseled the women at the forum. Educating staff and members about ways to take advantage of those changes is an important part of training for leadership.

"You don't see a lot of African-American women who are credit union CEOs, but that's not going to stop me from pursuing that goal," Dunbar said. "It's extremely important to me that future generations of staff exceed what I have done and that they, in turn extend their hand to the next in line. I feel that the women I met in Botswana have given me some wonderful examples to take home."
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