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  • Writer's pictureMFSA

Press Release: The Credit Ombud & MicroFinance SA

We are guided by the theme “Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future”. What this means is that before gender, comes fairness. Your gender should not determine the level of fairness afforded to you. Having financial equality as a woman means being financially inclusive.

MicroFinance SA (MFSA) and the Credit Ombud are emphasizing to women that equality is not about becoming like your counterparts but rather about recognizing your own power and using that to get ahead. The truth about women is that they conquer and overcome. They soldier on even in the toughest situations. And they do it all with the softness and love that they have been naturally gifted with. And that is their power; being able to defeat the odds as WOMEN. Not trying to imitate or copy from men, but simply being themselves.

Here are a few typical characteristics which we want to use to provide women with ways on how they can become financially savvy:

· Patient

Becoming financially savvy requires one to be patient. As the saying goes; “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Whether it is rebuilding your credit profile, or you wanting to pay off all your debt and start saving, you need patience. One of the mandates of the Credit Ombud is to educate the public pertaining to the credit industry. And in our many consumer education campaigns; we have come across women who do not know how to dispute their credit information at the credit bureaux. And due to the lack of knowledge, they fall into the hands of scammers who promise to assist for a fee but fail to render the services to the women as per their agreement. It is for that reason that we will continue to educate women about how to get their free credit reports at the various registered credit bureaux and how to go about disputing any incorrect information on their credit profiles. All consumers are entitled to one free credit profile in any twelve-month period. Upon receipt of their credit profile, they need go through the report and where information thereon is incorrect or has not been updated, they may lodge a dispute with the different credit bureaux by contacting them back. The Credit Ombud may proceed to investigate a complaint against a subscribing member upon confirmation of the either of the following; ie the

  1. 20 business days that the credit bureaux had to investigate the matter has expired and the matter remains unresolved and/or you remain dissatisfied with the outcome; or

  2. credit bureaux had reverted to you prior to the 20 business days with written feedback that they have credible information thus they cannot amend the information on the credit profile.

This is an easy process and has saved the lives of many women. Do not overthink it, just start and do it.

· Confident

Knowledge is power. By being financially confident, you need to have knowledge about personal finances, budgeting, saving for short- or long-term goals including retirement, investing, commitment to paying debt, understanding how credit helps and the methods of redress when in financial difficulties. The next generation of women are waiting to inherit our financial decisions- let us inspire and prepare them by contributing our financial acumen.

· Responsible

Before applying for credit, make sure that you can afford it. Your responsibility will ultimately be to repay the total amount of credit, with interest and fees that are applicable. Any person or entity that is involved in the provision of credit must be registered with the National Credit Regulator (NCR) as a credit provider. Don’t leave your bank card and pin number, SASSA card and ID with credit providers. If your credit provider requires this, it will be seen as a criminal offence in terms of the National Credit Act.

· Supportive

This brings me to this point – Support! The National Credit Act (NCA) makes provision for support structures that are available to consumers. Chapter 7, section 134 (a)(i) of the NCA states that there are alternative dispute resolution agents which consumers may approach to resolve any disputes involving a credit provider. There are various ombud schemes within the different financial sectors that assist consumers with their disputes for free. Know them, have their contact details, and never hesitate to contact them when you are in distress. MFSA and the Credit Ombud intend to create a credit industry where the consumer and credit provider can resolve their disputes amicably. You are not alone, you have support.

· Adaptable

It takes bravery to adapt to new situations. Change is not easy and when you start your financial journey, you will make changes that may be uncomfortable at first, however once you start noticing the positive change in your finances, it will change your attitude toward the new norm which you have created.

· Devoted

Taking care of yourself is showing that you love yourself. When you make the decision to change your financial situation and make it better, you are deciding to no longer remain in the stressful state which may be brought on by not knowing how to handle your finances. Devotion is a choice you make daily. Choosing not to give up. Choosing to spend wisely. Choosing to stick to your budget and remaining disciplined. Once the daily spending habits start to change, do not go back to your old ways when you see the change. And as you have made the first step, get onto the second phase of your financial plan. Take it one month at a time while keeping your daily expenses in check

· Focused

You have a goal, always remain focused on that goal, it will help you to stay on course even when the going gets tough. Creating a budget is not an easy task but it is necessary. When you do not ‘feel’ like doing it, remember what your goal is. Having a goal reminds you of where you are going and what you want to achieve. It also gives you a sense of control, just as a budget does. You do not wander through the months and hope that you will get more money to solve your financial problems, NO! Take control, sit down, and do your budget, plan and execute your plan. When you know how to budget and what the benefits are, you will be in control and manage your finances successfully. Give your money direction. You owe to yourself to stay focused and achieve your goals.

· Gentleness

Often, we hear the words “Be kind”, so ladies, be kind to yourself. Yes, some may have made many mistakes and it can be hard to think that there is a way out of the ditch you find yourself in, but don’t be so hard on yourself. When you have made up your mind about the financial changes you want to make in your life, there is no stopping you.

Our national women football team, Banyana Banyana ushered us into Women’s Month with a reminder, that even with limited resources, support, and recognition, when we use our power and are determined, we can achieve anything. They have put a stamp on the theme: “Generation Equality”. It took the women of 1956 for us to see women being CEO’s, and for women to dominate the sports fields. They did it for the women today, and now the women of today, need to do it for the women of now and tomorrow.

MFSA is a representative body of over 1300 registered and legal microfinance credit providers. As the trusted voice of responsible Microfinanciers in South Africa, they want to put emphasis on how crucial it is for consumers to only approach registered credit providers when applying for credit. Consumers should confirm whether the credit provider is registered with the NCR, and they can check on the MFSA website or the NCR website for registered microfinanciers. MFSA members have a national presence with outlets situated in rural, semi urban, and urban areas. Their member base ranges from small one office businesses to larger credit providers with more than 150 outlets, they include digital credit providers that originate and service credit online.

The Credit Ombud resolves complaints from consumers and businesses that are negatively impacted by credit bureau information or when a consumer has a dispute with a credit provider. They will at all times will act honestly, independently, and fairly, balancing the rights of all parties. Consumer education pertaining to the credit and credit information industry, remains a crucial part of their mandate. And the services of the Credit Ombud are FREE.

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