Every so often, a story comes along that I wish we could write, only it isn't directly related to Pensions & Investments' coverage.
What Dana Dakin is doing in the village of Pokuase in Ghana, West Africa, is an example. And since being the boss has its perks, I am using this column to tell a story that otherwise we would not tell.
Ms. Dakin, a retired marketing consultant to money managers, launched a microfinance program for women in 2003. WomensTrust mostly makes loans to women working in the informal economy, such as bakers and seamstresses. So far, the organization has made almost 2,000 loans to about 1,000 clients. The average loan is $150.
“These women might sign their name with a thumbprint, but they've got a business plan in their head,” Ms. Dakin said.
WomensTrust also provides business classes for loan clients and scholarships for girls in an area where most do not finish junior high. It also works with other groups to reduce Pokuase's 5% mortality rate from pregnancy-related causes.
Ms. Dakin credits a conversation she had with the late John English, who was retiring as chief investment officer of the Ford Foundation, for spurring her to launch WomensTrust. He had told her about three stages in life: learn, earn and return.
When Ms. Dakin decided to “return,” she picked Ghana because “I was doing this on my own and needed two things: as stable and safe a country as possible; and I needed English” as the spoken language.
Pokuase was the first and last village she visited on her initial trip to Africa; the father of her personal trainer in New Hampshire, who lives in Ghana, introduced her to the village.
WomensTrust survives on donations and, not surprisingly, Ms. Dakin tapped people in the money management industry as contributors and board members. They include: Marina Marrelli, co-founder of equity manager GlobeFlex Capital LP; hedge fund marketer Barbara Justiz; and Marlis Branaka (formerly Fritz), retired marketing executive at AXA Rosenberg Investment Management LLC.
Ms. Dakin said WomensTrust “is just like in the investment business. There's top-down and bottom-up, and we're bottom-up.”