The Power of a Woman

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“A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done.” –Social activist and writer Marge Piercy

Simply put, the Caterpillar Foundation’s mission is to alleviate poverty and place people on the path to prosperity. As we work to address the root causes, systematic injustices and long term effects of extreme poverty, we know we cannot do this alone. It will take collaboration between public, private and non-profit entities. Together, we are stronger.

To that end, over the last several years, the Caterpillar Foundation has specified a portion of our investments for impact on girls and women. Why would Caterpillar – of all companies – want to invest in girls and women? For us, it’s simple. We invest in the human infrastructure of society in the same way that Caterpillar’s business is focused on societal infrastructure. Women are responsible for so much of the basic movements of our every day life. They teach us to eat, to sleep, to love, and to learn. They teach us in so many ways to live. With this acute focus on girls and women we will be able to alleviate poverty and put people on the pathway to prosperity.

Can you imagine a world without the power of women? This is impossible to fathom, thus, the investment of girls and women is crucial because we believe that when women are given the power and the time to build the world, they see in their minds our world at large becomes a far better place.

A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done.

One of the key ways we’ve been investing in women for 22 years is by partnering with Opportunity International, a global nonprofit that gives individuals across the world access to coveted financial services that help them break free from poverty. Over 90% of their clientele happen to be powerful, independent women. Together, we are transforming nearly 17 million women’s lives by 2017.

I’ve invited my dear friend and Opportunity International Global CEO Vicki Escarra to share a few words here on the power of women across the world.

Vicki and Michele

Michele Sullivan and Vicki Escarra

Thank you, Michele. This is such an important dialogue—not just for women, but for our communities, our economies and the prosperity of future generations.

At Opportunity, we witness every day the staggering cultural and legal inequities that disproportionately affect women living in poverty. With access to financial services and training, however, a woman entrepreneur is empowered to build a successful business, produce an income and ultimately gain a voice in her family and community. This is why 94% of Opportunity International’s loan clients are women. We know that women invest almost all of their income back into their families—sending their children to school, providing more nutritious food, even putting a roof over their heads.

94% of our loan clients are women

Vicki Suzi Michele

Suzie Wondera, Michele Sullivan and Vicki Escarra in Uganda

The Caterpillar team and I spent time in Uganda with one such woman, Suzie Wandera. When a university was built in Suzie’s town, this tenacious grandmother of six saw an opportunity to open a student hostel. She used Opportunity loans to expand the building to hold 17 rooms, each housing multiple students. She also is using Opportunity loans to pay her grandchildren’s school fees—thus paving their path out of poverty.

Because of Suzie, more than 50 students each year are now in school. She has also created jobs for her neighbors at the hostel—which means even more people are now working toward a better future. All due to the power of one woman.

Our 22-year relationship with Caterpillar has resulted in women entrepreneurs empowered, jobs created, lives transformed. Already, Caterpillar and Opportunity have transformed more than 5 million women’s lives in India alone—and it’s only fueling our fire for more change. Watch this amazing story to see the impact that a small investment can have on someone’s life.

What will you help one woman achieve?

 

Guest post By Michele Sullivan, President of the Caterpillar Foundation and Vicki Escarra, Global CEO of Opportunity International

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