Chair of the supervisory board Ankie van Wersch-Lenders: ‘Simavi is on the right track’

Article: 13.06.23, Nederland, Karin Bojorge-Alvarez

Simavi welcomed Ankie van Wersch-Lenders as the new chair of the supervisory board in November 2022. Ankie is ceo of Enviu, a venture builder, aiming to build businesses that have a net positive impact on people and planet. Making things happen is also her goal for Simavi.

Why did you decide to join Simavi?

‘Well, I was honoured to be able to join the supervisory board of Simavi. Simavi has existed for a long time so I remember it even from my childhood. Access to water for women is not only a right, but also a necessity in our move towards a more equitable society. Being able to be part of an organisation that does have that focus on women, water and climate, feels great.’

‘At Enviu, we build businesses for positive impact. We built strong teams in the countries we operate in, and we formed international partnerships that accelerated our ambition and impact. I have learned a lot from that process and would love to share these learnings with Simavi.’

What are these learnings?

‘If you want to empower women and girls, then you must understand well how they believe their problems could be addressed. And the best way to do that is by operating locally. But shifting power is also about us: the next supervisory board member we hire should be someone from the countries we work in, with grassroot, bottom-up experience.’

Simavi and partners at UN Water Conference 2023 in New York

How could Simavi increase its visibility?

‘I believe Simavi is on the right track. For example, Simavi went to the UN Water Conference in New York with representatives from our partners who were able explain what is going on at the grassroot level. It is an example of how Simavi is starting to be recognized for its expertise. These types of initiatives could help to get the Simavi name out there.’

What should Simavi’s strategy be towards the private sector?

‘To make a positive change you must set positive examples. There are private sector parties that are willing to form partnerships with NGOs. And I think in creating such partnerships, for example with the flagship programme in Kenya, it could show that it is possible for the private sector to create access to clean water for all. And these positive examples hopefully will help others to follow.’

And how can we collaborate with other NGOs that share our goals?

‘What I see happening in the development sector is that organisations are connecting around a specific group of people, an approach called collective impact. For example, in India, you see that organisations with different expertise connect to help the waste workers, a vulnerable group. There is a need for Simavi’s expertise and experience in these types of programs as it is often vulnerable women for whom access to water and sanitation is still a luxury.’

What will be your focus for the future? 

‘In 2022 the Simavi team and board have created a strategy, onboarded a great managing director, Dieneke, and developed impactful flagship programmes. For me, the next years will be about making these things happen. Building the necessary partnerships, shifting the power, and also looking at what the team needs to facilitate that. Bringing the direction and the structure you need so Simavi can implement its well-designed strategy.'

You can also read the interview with Ankie van Wersch-Lenders in our impact report over 2022

Esther Oeganda

Everbody has the human right to safe water and sanitation.

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