Marshall Islands Correspondent

MAJURO, Marshall Islands — The first recipient of a loan from the new Kora im an Kil Fund (Women’s Fund) in the Marshall Islands was recognized for being a pioneer at a small ceremony in mid-January in Majuro.

The new Women’s Fund is a Taiwan-supported small loan program to support women entrepreneurs in the Marshall Islands. The idea for the fund came from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine in 2019 to help women start businesses, and promote and support women’s talents, innovations and economic development.

At the ceremony to recognize Alma Abin for receiving the first loan through the Taiwan-supported Women’s Fund, were (from left) Teri Elbon, staffer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Jennifer Hawley, board member of the Women’s Fund; Alma Abin, loan recipient; Taiwan Ambassador Jeffrey Hsiao; Jasmine Hsiao, wife of Jeffrey; Bank of the Marshall Islands CEO Velma Edwards, CEO of Bank of the Marshall Islands; Marshall Islands Holdings Inc. CEO Patrick Chen, CEO of Marshall Islands Holdings Inc.; and Taiwan Embassy Second Secretary David Lin.
Photo by Eve Burns

Although Tsai agreed to the plan, promising $1 million to launch the new fund, when Heine’s term as president ended in January 2020, the project experienced numerous delays in working through the variety of legal and other requirements.

But things moved into higher gear at the end of last year, leading up to the mid-January handover of the first loan to Alma Abin. A small group, including Taiwan Ambassador Jeffrey Hsiao, was on hand to recognize her.

The new loan program is administered by Bank of Marshall Islands, which also operates another Taiwan-funded revolving micro loan program that has been active since 2006, providing more than 1,100 small loans in its first 15 years of operation. The board of directors of Kora im an Kil Fund will receive and oversee the women’s loan fund in coordination with Bank of Marshall Islands.

Monique Graham, the fund board’s loan administrator, led the handover ceremony to recognize Abin. Abin expressed thanks for the opportunity provided to Marshallese women by the new fund. She is a handicraft maker who makes different handicrafts such as fans, decoration items, and necklaces. The loan will assist her with tools and materials to support her craft making activity.

“You are the pioneers,” Hsiao said to Abin and several other women whose loans were being processed after Abin’s. “Our best wishes in your successful future.”

Jennifer Hawley, on behalf of the Women’s Fund board, congratulated and wished Abin the best.

“This is a new chapter in the economic empowerment of women in the Marshall Islands,” the ambassador said. mbj