We write to you this morning to announce that our founder, Maria Nowak, passed away yesterday. Our funder will be fondly remembered for her achievements and devotion to microfinance in Europe and beyond.
She spent her life advocating for the financially excluded, explaining to mainstream financial institutions that it is not only to the rich that they could lend money but also to the poor.
Maria was born in Lviv in 1935, when it was still Poland, and moved to Paris when she was a child. Her personal story during the war as a child is already one of courage and resilience. She attained degrees from Science Po in Paris and the London School of Economics. In the '80s, Maria began working in microfinance in Africa. After meeting Muhammad Yunus, she decided to bring the model of microfinance to Europe.
Her legacy lives within the European Microfinance Network, which she founded in 2003. She also founded Adie, the French powerhouse of microfinance and social enterprise. In Belgium, she co-founded Microstart. Both are now EMN members. She helped start other MFIs all over Europe and beyond, and her achievements continue on, stronger than ever.
Some of us had the honour and good luck of working with her personally, and for that, she will also be remembered as a supportive and insightful coach and guide. We wanted to have her as our guest of honour in Paris during our next conference in June to celebrate with us our first 20 years, yet fate decided otherwise.
The European Microfinance Network offers its deepest condolences to her family and friends.