International Women’s Day 2022: #BreakTheBias

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

The day has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Prior to this the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom’s Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women’s equality. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.

The theme for this year’s IWD is #BreakTheBias.

Imagine a world where there is equality, diversity and inclusivity. A world which is free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

How is the world shifting towards gender equality?

Gender-related conversations and activities are certainly on the rise. Over the years, the term “International Women’s Day” was the most discussed topic on Facebook by millions (even more than the Super Bowl). And back in 2018, Pantone’s ‘Color of the Year’ was purple (i.e. women’s colour). Everywhere, gender is on the mainstream radar and impacting the narrative. Stereotypes, discrimination and bias are more likely to be called out. Men’s role in society is more varied and gender roles are more fluid.

We are moving to a very exciting time in history where the world now “expects” diversity, equity and inclusion. The world notices its absence and celebrates its presence.

Step back over the years. For example, International Women’s Day 2016 saw people worldwide being asked to support women’s equality and develop an inclusive mindset via a #PledgeforParity. Then for International Women’s Day 2017, the world was asked to #BeBoldforChange and identify tangible action to help accelerate gender parity. International Women’s Day 2018 saw a massive #PressforProgress as the world stepped forward to push the boundaries and go beyond in achieving greater equality for women. International Women’s Day 2019 saw groups continue to play a critical role in helping forge a more gender-balanced world as we worked towards a #BalanceforBetter. International Women’s Day 2020, amidst the pandemic, saw an important wave of collective individualism as we all strived to be #EachforEqual – because we know that an equal world is an enabled world. Then in 2021, we saw widespread global adoption of the #ChooseToChallenge theme as groups committed to actively watching for and calling out inequity.

Now in 2022, we must step up and be aware of the significant impact that bias has on women’s equality – both conscious and unconscious bias. We need to recognise it and call it out. We need to #BreakTheBias.

What is Hertsavers doing towards supporting women?

As a credit union, we can build a community with equality and free from bias by making sure that we support women financially so that they can:

  • Regain control of their money and independence
  • Give them the confidence to make sound decisions and express themselves in their professional and personal lives

Some of the ways we do this are by encouraging people to save money with one of our savings accounts. For those who are struggling with the demanding child care costs, we offer child benefit loans of £500 or £750, if you have two or more children. If you are returning to the workplace and need a head start in getting your finances back on track, we have an introductory loan of up to £3,000 or you can join the Salary Saving Scheme. We also provide financial education such as money-saving tips through our blog and newsletters.

How you can show your support at this year’s International Women’s Day

• cross your arms and strike the #BreakTheBias pose showing solidarity and support

• post across social media using the hashtags #BreakTheBias and #IWD2022

• like, repost, comment on the #BreakTheBias posts of others

Together we can all #BreakTheBias.

Pair sentenced for multi-million pound illegal lending racket

Two women who ran an illegal lending racket worth more than £4 million have been sentenced.

Luz Guerra Villar, 65, and Leticia Manipol, 69, of Church Lane, Tooting, lent over £4.2 million to fellow Filipinos across South London, including many working at a London hospital.

Appearing for sentencing at Kingston Crown Court on Friday (February 4), Villar was sentenced to 18 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 220 hours of unpaid work.

Manipol was handed a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for two years with 200 hours of unpaid work.

The defendants had pleaded guilty to illegal money lending and money laundering charges between July 2003 and October 2019 at an earlier hearing.

The case was prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in partnership with the London Borough of Merton, Richmond upon Thames & Wandsworth Regulatory Services Partnership and the Metropolitan Police.

On October 22, 2019 officers from the IMLT executed a warrant at the defendants home in Wandsworth.

Villar was present at the property on the day the warrant was executed. She told investigating officers “I do lend money” while under caution and guided them to an upstairs bedroom where she referred to a notebook within a wardrobe. Cash totalling £1,740 was also seized along with electronic devices belonging to Villar.

During a search of the property, documentation outlining names and amounts were discovered in numerous books and ledgers, indicating that approximately £4.2 million worth of loans had been given out illegally over sixteen years. In the majority of cases, interest of 20% was charged on the loans.

Manipol was out of the country on the day the warrant was executed. On October 24, 2019 she was arrested at Gatwick Airport upon her return from Barcelona and electronic devices were seized from her.

A forensic examination of the defendants digital devices revealed dozens of SMS messages, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp messages which referenced loans.

Messages on Villar’s phone revealed a consistent pattern of lending with requests for loans, extensions upon time to repay loans, penalties for missing payments, the setting up of direct debits to repay loans, apologies for non-payments from numerous individuals and reference to interest applied to loans.

Villar tried to conceal the illegal enterprise by splitting transactions. One message sent to a victim said: “I can give you £10K this week and 10K next week, because if I will give it all in one go, I might be questioned.”

Officers also found a significant volume of messages and chatlogs relating to loans on Manipol’s phone. One victim was told to act as a guarantor on a friend’s loan, the message said: “What is your friend’s name? you will have to act as her guarantor. Meaning if she can’t pay her loan, you will be the one to pay her loan.”

The court was told Villar issued interest bearing loans amounting to £2,741,865 and received £2,841,233 in repayments between July 2003 and October 2019.

Leticia Manipol issued interest bearing loans of £1,462,502 and received £1,613,267 in repayments between 2008 and 2019.

Welcoming the sentence, Tony Quigley, Head of the England IMLT said: “Illegal money lenders are a scourge on society, taking advantage of people in desperate situations.

“The defendants, in this case, raked in millions of pounds from their illegal activity and targeted financially vulnerable victims in the Filipino community. I hope this sentence reflects the seriousness of this offending.

“These unscrupulous lenders often present themselves as a community service provider or as a friend to build trust but can quickly turn nasty if repayments are not met. Vulnerable borrowers are often unaware of the interest being charged on the loans and the dangers that illegal lenders pose.

“Perpetrators need to realise that this kind of activity will not be tolerated and by working with our partners we will do everything in our power to ensure those involved are brought to justice.”

Wandsworth Council’s community safety spokesperson Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “We strongly support the work of the Illegal Money Lending Team and their ongoing efforts to tackle unscrupulous lenders and loan sharks who pose such a threat to some of the most vulnerable members of society.

“Here in Wandsworth we’ve helped set up a local credit union so that people on low incomes who find themselves excluded from mainstream banks and credit companies can obtain an affordable, safe and ethical loan. Our advice would always be to contact the credit union and steer clear of the sharks.”

Recorder Caspar Glyn QC said he acknowledged the offences were ‘very serious’ matters and there was ‘high culpability’.

The defendants will now face a Proceeds of Crime hearing to recover assets and money amassed through their criminal activity.

Anyone with concerns about illegal money lending can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.


For media enquiries, please contact IMLT Press Officer Holly-Leigh Carr on 07703 373535 or email

Notes to editors:

The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England, Scotland and Wales work alongside the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to investigate those operating within the consumer credit market without the appropriate authorisation.

The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.

How to save money during Lent

Following Shrove Tuesday comes Lent, a 40-day period that leads up to Easter, an important festival on the Christian calendar. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. From a religious perspective, Christians observe Lent as a mark of respect for Jesus who fasted for 40 days in the desert.

Nowadays people give up something for Lent for 40 days to test their willpower. It can also be a way to ‘spring clean’ yourself. It’s also a way to get started on the goals that you had set yourself at the start of the year which you didn’t get around to. Also, giving something up can also help people save money. You don’t have to be religious to get involved.

Here are some things/habits to give up for lent and save you money.

1. Give up… ready-made coffee/tea

A quick win (if you have the willpower to do so) is giving up shop-bought coffee/tea/hot chocolate from a coffee shop.

Making your own tea or coffee at home could save you hundreds of pounds a year. Research shows that you could save £86 by just giving it up for just 40 days. (Source)

If you really have the urge to get a special coffee such as a latte or cappuccino, you can either invest in an espresso machine where each cup will be pennies. You could also get ready-made sachets where you just need to pour hot water and enjoy (less than £5 for a pack of 10).

Not only will you be saving money by skipping the coffee shop, but your body will also feel healthier if you give up high calory coffees.

2. Give up… streaming media

For 40 days, give up your subscription such as Netflix. You will save money plus have lots of time to do other things that you wouldn’t get to do if you were just watching movies or binge-watching your favourite series.

3. Give up… drinking alcohol

Yes, we know that you have ‘Dry January’ to do that. However, why not give it up for Lent as well? For 40 days, stay away from alcohol and it will save you at least £95 during this time, or even more if you usually have two pints a day.

4. Give up… smoking

By giving up smoking during Lent will help you save at least £73, presuming you smoke four a day and buy a 20-cigarette pack worth £9.10.

5. Give up… takeaways

From delicious pizzas to chicken tikkas, you could save ££s just by skipping takeaways. Look for alternatives such as making pizzas at home. Also, if you make a weekly plan of meals and meal prep, you will always have something to eat at home after a busy day.

6. Give up… taking expensive public transport

If you aren’t travelling far to get to your destination, why not take advantage of riding a bike or walking? By giving up the tube, a bus or taxi, you can save money and also get fitter at the same time. Can’t afford a bike? We have you covered – with our transport loan, you can take out up to £5,000 payable over five years.

7. Give up… impulse buying

Yes, this is a habit that can be given up for Lent and can help you save money. By having a shopping list that you can stick to, you will avoid impulse buying and the guilt that follows.

8. Give up… pricy days/nights out

Recreate experiences at home, for free or look for cheaper alternatives.

For example, a trip to the cinema can be expensive. You will end up buying popcorn, drinks in addition to the price of the ticket. Instead, you can recreate this experience at home by watching a movie at home. You can make or buy a bag of popcorn, get drinks, turn the lights out and enjoy the film.

These are just some of the things that you can give up and start saving money during Lent.

In fact, give yourself a bigger challenge and try giving up the habit for a year. You will be pleasantly surprised by how much you would have saved by the end of the year.

Good luck!