Empowered with the Credit Union

24 April 2020
Author: Amron Hamdi

Rismawati Bancin first joined the Credit Union in her village twenty-six years ago. She joined the Sada Ukur Credit Union in Jambu Belang Village, West Pakpak Regency, North Sumatra. “At that time in my region, women were somewhat neglected because they were considered unable to do many things. However, since joining the Credit Union, I have been trained in many skills, especially managing family finances,” explained Rismawati. Risma, as she is often called, later became a manager of the Credit Union in her village and was then appointed to become an administrator at the Central PESADA Credit Union.

Credit Unions are an initiative initiated by the Sada Ahmo Association (PESADA) in North Sumatra in 1992. PESADA, which was founded in 1990, is a member of the PERMAMPU consortium, a consortium of eight women’s organizations in Sumatra formed by the MAMPU Program in 2012. Credit Unions are savings and loans groups that are formed in rural areas targeting women who have limited access to information, public services and finance.

“PESADA has educated a lot of women through Credit Unions. PESADA teaches that women must be brave and capable, not inferior to men. My heart was moved; what’s the difference between men and women? We are both high school graduates. Why can men do something but we women cannot? ” Risma said. “Though the Credit Union I was able to attend provincial and district parliamentary hearings and hear women’s voices, there I saw that there were so few women involved and women did not feel listened to and accepted. When my friends encourage me to run for a seat in the local parliament, I got motivated to run for office,” explained Risma.

In addition to providing access to capital, PESADA Credit Unions also aim to provide education to women about issues including human rights, gender equality, reproductive health, leadership, and politics.

Although the Credit Union initiative has been operating for a long time, the push to reintroduce political education into the Credit Union structure began in 2017, two years before Risma was elected as a member of the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) of West Pakpak Regency. This is not the first time she ran for office. In 2009, she had tried to be elected to the DPRD but was not successful. In 2019 she tried again and finally succeeded in becoming a member of the local parliament.

At present, the PESADA Credit Union initiative has reached 8 districts and 1 municipality in North Sumatra with 177 savings and loan groups that provide benefits to 10,850 members. Through the Credit Union, PESADA also provides support for women’s political participation by allocating 0.5-2% of savings to educate women, increase their capacity and to campaign for female candidates. MAMPU supports the PERMAMPU consortium to form women’s groups across Sumatra to give women a voice and increase their influence and access to services and information.

RISMAWATI BANCIN, a member of CU Sada Ukur, Jambu Belang Village, West Pakpak Regency who currently serves as Member of West Pakpak Regional Legislative Council (DPRD Pakpak Bharat) 2019 – 2024.