The History Of WDB

WDB was first registered in 1991 as Women In Development Consortium (WID) Pty Ltd and later in 1992 as WDB Microfinance. It was a direct response to South African women’s poverty.

The rationale for founding WDB in 1992 was:


  • For the past 30 years, there had been a decrease in per-capita income. 44.8% of the population exists below the minimum subsistence level;
  • Even if South Africa were to achieve an economic growth rate of 2.5%, at the rate of population growth, 12- 15-million people would remain unemployed in the year 2000;
  • Women constituted the largest number among the poor. When employed, they were engaged in the most exploitable sectors of the economy, e.g. agriculture and domestic service;
  • That, in the period of transition, women had to take an active part in planning for their full participation in the evolving structures and economy;
  • Organisations for women’s development needed to be strengthened so they could increase their implementing capacity and absorption of capital;
  • There was need to create new institutions to empower women in all areas of human activity; and
  • Women had to impact upon new national development initiatives in order to ensure that their interests were not overlooked and that it was only through the efforts of women themselves that a truly democratic non-racial and non-sexist South Africa would be realised.

The emergence of WDB was based on the understanding that the utilisation of loans/savings and supportive services would result in the creation of new jobs, an increase in the average income, the expansion of existing micro-enterprises and improved quality of life for their families.

The guiding principles for founding WDB were that:

  • It would be open to all South African women, regardless of race or class, with the aim of allowing for mutual enrichment and empowerment;


  • It would be truly national and non-sectarian in its membership and services, paying particular attention to women who had been especially disempowered and those in rural areas;


  • WDB would foster unity and development among women;


  • WDB would associate itself with all struggles for women’s emancipation;

  • It would over a period of time move away from dependency on institutional and donor funding towards self-reliance for its operations and prioritise self-help and micro-enterprise for its clients;

  • It would ensure that the women themselves would eventually buy out guarantors so that WDB became truly a women’s banking institution; and

  • WDB would work towards sustainability through its own income-generating projects, services and investments in addition to an economically viable lending base


Early Days and common goals​

WDB was born of the ideas of very many women from all sectors of society as stated above. Many of those who participated at the original workshop at the Devonshire hotel in Braamfontein in 1991 have proceeded over time to found their own development enterprises and businesses: Wiphold, Nozala, WDF and SAWID. Others from which WDB has hugely benefited are Palesa, AWCA and IWFsa. These are the post-apartheid women’s formations with which we wish to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Today our challenge remains the same​

This quote from the first WDB annual report of 1992, 24 years ago, remains as relevant today in contextualising the challenge:


“The idea of women’s development banking arose from an understanding that economic development has to play a critical role in pulling South Africa out of poverty and on the road to democracy.There is recognition that women’s contribution – as workers and as managers of human welfare- is central to the ability of households, communities and the nation to tackle the current crisis of meeting people’s survival and subsistence needs. therefore, in the long term, it is by reinforcing and building upon women’s efforts in both the rural and urban economy that the needed transformation to more self-reliant national development strategies can be achieved.