April 26, 2011
Smita Satiani is a guest blogger who attended Grameen Foundation’s Spring 2011 Gala on April 5, 2011. She currently works for the Clinton Foundation’s Economic Opportunity Initiative in Harlem, New York.
Grameen Foundation’s Spring 2011 Gala was held at 583 Park Avenue in New York City, and I was grateful to have the experience of attending such an inspirational and eye-opening event. The evening kicked off with a moving video message from Nobel Peace Laureate and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, who electrified the room and opened the door to a night of ideas, knowledge sharing, and stories of success from around the globe.
After being treated to live entertainment from Ballet D’Afrique Djoniba, guests enjoyed messages from Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware and Chairman of Grameen Foundation’s Board of Directors, and Grameen Foundation President and CEO Alex Counts, both of whom illustrated their strong passion for microfinance and providing opportunities for individuals to escape poverty across the world. The Foundation also honored shoe designer Christian Louboutin for his “Peace of Shoe,” a limited-edition creation designed to benefit microfinance. (Grameen Foundation is a charity of choice for Christian Louboutin and received substantial funding through this promotion.) And Margaret Sirovatka, Vice President for J.P. Morgan’s Global Trade Advisory, gave a riveting personal account about her experiences as a volunteer in Tunisia for Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Borders® program.
Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware and Chairman of Grameen Foundation's Board of Directors, talked to guests about the power of the "double bottom line" for microfinance institutions, and how Grameen Foundation's Progress out of Poverty Index enables them to measure how well they are meeting their social goals
The final remarks of the evening were from Dolores Torres, President and CEO of CARD Bank, located in the Philippines. Initially formed as a replica of Grameen Bank, CARD is now the largest microfinance institution in the country. I have long believed in the work of the Grameen Foundation, but there is truly no better proof of the power of microfinance than to hear a woman like Ms. Torres speak about her successes in providing access to capital to millions of women and families in the Philippines alone.
Every day, I work with entrepreneurs in the U.S. who are building their small businesses and simultaneously living out their life dreams. Through such programs as the Clinton Foundation’s Entrepreneur Mentoring Program and others like it, women- and minority-owned small businesses in underserved communities across the U.S. are provided with infrastructural and financial support to move their entrepreneurial ideas from spark to flame.
Attending Grameen Foundation’s Annual Gala reminded me that, whether it is a Chicago-based entrepreneur that sells her house to start a pound-cake company or a rural Indonesian women that overcomes the effects of a tsunami and re-builds her fishing business, all small-business owners, regardless of their situation or location, hold the same signature entrepreneurial spirit, talent and determination to build a better life for themselves and their families.
I left the Gala that evening with a renewed sense of hope and excitement about the fight against global poverty. Because of the support that Grameen Foundation provides to the microfinance sector around the world, and the mobile phone-based initiatives that provide the poor with vital information and income-generating opportunities, the possibilities of economic sustainability for small-business owners in our global economy is able to surpass all oceans and boundaries.