Veronica Sentongo (pictured) is the Chief Change and Innovation Officer at dfcu Bank, a role she took on in December 2020. In this position, her core mandate is Product Development, Innovation and Organizational Change Management for the Bank.
In commemoration of Women’s Month, Business Focus spoke with her about what dfcu is doing to propel the socioeconomic development of women across Uganda.
Below are the excerpts of the interview;
Q: What specific initiatives has dfcu Bank implemented to support women’s empowerment in the communities where you do business?
A: Over the years, dfcu Bank has embarked on numerous initiatives to empower women. The Bank established the Women in Business program (dfcu WiB) in 2007 to support Ugandan women entrepreneurs achieve their full potential and in 2012, we established the Women Business Advisory Services to mandate for women’s economic empowerment while increasing their financial literacy.
5 years ago, we partnered with Daily Monitor and Uganda Investment Authority to create the Rising Woman – an initiative that aims to recognize, celebrate, and promote a culture of mentorship among women in the business space in Uganda.
We have now just launched the 2nd and 3rd Cohorts of the Business Accelerator Program which is executed with the Agribusiness Development Centre and the Rabo Foundation. This Program’s objective is to train 350 agribusinesses, 40% of which are women-led.
Our commitment to the betterment of women, their families, businesses and communities is reflected both in our individual products, services and in the partnerships that we choose to be a part of.
Q: What role does dfcu Bank believe its financial services play in women’s empowerment?
A: I would say that it is a transformative role! This is because the financial services that we provide, especially for women entrepreneurs, are designed to cater to their unique needs. We understand the challenges of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, which is where the majority of Uganda’s businesswomen are concentrated. We are passionate about our provision of free-to attend financial literacy workshops, networking opportunities, credit facilities at specilaised rates and so much more. These play a key role in improving the economic standing of women and thus, empowering them in multiple ways across our country.
Q: What challenges has dfcu Bank faced in supporting women’s empowerment, and how has it addressed them?
A: The challenges we’ve faced can be referred to as two-pronged. Most of them are obstacles faced by women within our communities and to manage them, we’ve had to remain intentional while creating Programs, which is why we have the Women in Business Advisory Centre at our Head Office that caters solely to women entrepreneurs.
Recently, we have also started holding Legal Aid clinics because we have identified the need to empower our women in terms of their right to legal support and advice. Empowerment must be all-round.
Q: How does dfcu Bank ensure that its services and programs are accessible to women from diverse backgrounds?
A: dfcu Bank has over 50 branches countrywide and this footprint enables us to reach countless women daily in addition to the women we reach though our campaigns and programs. Additionally, our partnerships Make it Possible for us to reach even more women because there is strength in numbers.
Q: How is dfcu Bank using technology to increase women’s access to financial services and promote their economic empowerment?
A: We have several digital services such as dfcu QuickBanking which enables 24/7 mobile and online banking for personal and business transactions. Using a mobile phone or computer, a customer is able to pay utility bills, taxes, company salaries, make transfers and much more.
Our Agent Banking network provides remote banking services for our customers in convenient close proximity to their businesses, but it is also a source of income as a large number of these Agents are female.
We also have the dfcu Investment Club App that allows Women Savings Groups to save, track and monitor their savings remotely, saving time and resources – which the women can then put to use in other fruitful endeavors.
Q: How is dfcu Bank promoting digital literacy among women?
A: This year, we are 2 years into our new strategy and one of the Bank’s aspirations is to become a Digital and Data Driven Organization. To do this, we’re promoting digital literacy among women through practical skilling. This Women’s Day, we partnered with Gudie Leisure Farm to hold a Digital Literacy Masterclass for women entrepreneurs, fully sponsored by dfcu.
During a study tour to Nairobi, also fully sponsored by the Bank, the top 10 winners of last year’s Rising Woman Initiative had an opportunity to learn from a Digital Marketing expert, as part of their learning sessions. We also conduct digital financial literacy through our financial literacy workshops. The Bank is dedicated to leaving no woman behind, practically and strategically.
Q: How does dfcu Bank ensure equal opportunities for women in terms of recruitment, promotion, and career advancement?
A: Our Bank’s employment policy is to give equal opportunities in employment, and we ensure that we do not discriminate against gender or race. This applies to recruitment, promotion and career advancement. Within the workplace, preferential treatment of one gender over the other is both discouraged and prohibited. There is also zero tolerance for intimidation or sexual harassment.
Q: Finally, in a world that’s constantly changing, how can companies keep track of their strategic goals and at the same time, play their part in ensuring that goals such gender equality get adequate attention and investment?
A: I believe that most companies already have a good grasp of their goals and how to achieve them – it is the implementation or execution of these goals that separates the (wo) men from the Giants. Making socioeconomic impact is about being aware of what your communities need to thrive and continuously taking deliberate actions to track, support and reward those who achieve. By providing a safe space and embracing the diversity of our customers, we strive to ensure that the needs of our customers are at the centre of everything that we do. Gender Equity is one of those goals that require consistent, keen vigilance and support. We must also be sure that in elevating one gender, we don’t end up sidelining another.