Supporting leaders to end poverty
In 2019, the World Bank stated that approximately 700 million people lived in extreme poverty, surviving on $1.90 daily. The future is optimistic though as extreme poverty decreased from 35% in 1990 to 8.6% in 2022. Thanks to the persistent efforts of governments, foundations, international non-governmental organizations and many others, global poverty is diminishing. In 2008, Anne Welsh McNulty established the John P. McNulty Prize “in honor of her late husband” in partnership with the Aspen Institute with the aim of supporting leaders to end poverty. Each year, leaders who address significant world problems, like global poverty, receive funding and “support to amplify their efforts.” Here are five women leaders and McNulty Prize winners who focus on global poverty reduction.

Navyn Salem, Edesia

Navyn Salem’s philanthropy journey began with a trip. In 2007, during a visit to Tanzania, her father’s home country, she witnessed child malnutrition firsthand. “A mother was crying inconsolably over the loss of her child. The child had starved to death,” the Edesia website described. Since that day, Salem made it her mission to prevent global malnutrition. In 2009, she founded Edesia Nutrition, which is the reason why she stood as one of the winners of the John P. McNulty Prize in 2022. Edesia Nutrition is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that produces ready-to-use therapeutic food, like Plumpy’Nut, to end malnutrition. This organization has addressed hunger and malnutrition among more than 16 million children in 60 nations through successful collaborations with UNICEF, USAID, the World Food Programme (WFP) and more.

Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen Global Fellowship Program

Jacqueline Novogratz gave up her career on Wall Street in 1986 to assist with launching Rwanda’s first microfinance institution. According to the McNulty Foundation, she “continued her work of using creative methods of financing to encourage development by starting Acumen” in 2001, an impact investment organization that invests in companies and individuals, working on global poverty with its “Patient Capital” model.

For her, this is a bridge between philanthropy and markets. Also, the Acumen Academy provides courses, fellowships and accelerators to support next-generation role models, innovators and leaders who focus on social change in different ways. The Acumen Global Fellowship Program is a one-year program that helps individuals to master the required “skills, attributes and values of moral leadership values”necessary to ignite social change. Through this program, Novogratz won the 2018 McNulty Prize Catalyst Fund, which “builds on a decade of the impact of the John P. McNulty Prize, a $100,000 award given annually to honor the visionary work of individuals moving the needle on intractable global challenges.”

Alexandra Kissling & Maria Pacheco, Vital Voices Central America

Vital Voices Global Partnership is a nonprofit organization that has supported women leaders all around the world since 1997. The organization has supported more than 20,000 women in more than 180 countries and regions. It supports women leaders because it believes “women are the key to progress in their communities and nations cannot move forward without women in leadership positions,” the Vital Voices website said.

Under this partnership, Maria Pacheco developed the Vital Voices Chapter in Guatemala in 2008. With her invitation, several other leaders attended the first Vital Voices conference in Central America. This led to the development of six chapters in the region and the founding of the Vital Voices Central America coalition by Pacheco and Alexandra Kissling.

Kissling is also the co-founder of Vital Voices Costa Rica. Overall, “the Vital Voices Central America network has touched the lives of [more than] 100,000 women and their families” through different programs. Women are now able to gain important skills in communication, entrepreneurship and leadership, career-building and community work. This is a crucial contribution considering that in this region, women are more likely to live in extreme poverty than men. Kissling and Pacheco won the 2019 McNulty Prize thanks to their dedicated efforts to fight against poverty in Central America.

Réjane Woodroffe, Bulungula Incubator

Réjane Woodroffe witnessed the utmost opposite conditions during commutes between Cape Town, South Africa, and a secluded community of villages on the southeast coast of the country. In one place, there were luxurious cars, fancy buildings and many job opportunities, whereas, on the other side, she saw extreme poverty and underdevelopment. The villages lacked roads, proper health care access, schools, electricity and sanitation.

After this eye-opening experience, she started to work on trying to end rural generational poverty. In 2007, Woodroffe founded Bulungula Incubator, which is the reason why she won the 2014 prize. Bulungula Incubator is a nonprofit organization that has goals to end poverty while improving community life through several programs. For instance, early childhood education, health and nutrition, sport, art, culture and economic programs through collaborations with government, non-governmental organizations and other associations. This is another example of supporting leaders to end poverty.

All in all, awards like the John P. McNulty Prize play a significant role in supporting leaders to end poverty. These types of awards not only provide monetary support to further leaders’ humanitarian work but also stand as motivation for future leaders who would like to play a role in poverty reduction. Announcing these types of awards to recognize winners is crucial for motivating the next generation of leaders.

– Irem Aksoy
Photo: Flickr

poverty in guatemala
In the rural areas of Guatemala, poverty is both widespread and deeply entrenched. A recent study by The World Bank found that 58 percent of the Guatemalan population live on incomes below the extreme poverty line, which is defined as the amount needed to purchase a basic basket of food.

A new solution to address poverty in Guatemala has emerged in the form of bracelets and necklaces. Entrepreneur Maria Pacheco is providing a sustained source of income to over 2,000 Guatemalans with these simple fashion accessories.

Growing up in Guatemala City, Pacheco was exposed to the poverty, devastation and desperation in her native country. Pacheco yearned to improve the quality of life in her homeland through organic and native farming, which “protects and gives life and is a sustainable way to produce food.” In Guatemala, agriculture accounts for a fifth of GDP and employs about 40 percent of the country’s total labor force.

But when Pacheco set out with her biological agriculture degree to help her native people, she found that the farmers’ parched and sloping hillsides were inarable and, more importantly, not profitable. This lack of income is not uncommon in rural areas of the country, as Guatemala’s income distribution is the most unequal in the world. While the wealthiest 10 percent of the population owns nearly 50 percent of the national wealth, the poorest 10 percent owns less than 1 percent.

“Poverty is a cycle that starts with an unequal distribution of income generated between the rural and urban areas of underdeveloped countries,” said Pacheco. In these weak rural economies, education is unattainable and people cannot provide even the basic necessities for their families.

Pacheco realized that the only way to break this poverty cycle was to bring commerce to the remote Guatemalans. With this in mind, Pacheco pioneered a commerce-driven program that primarily focuses on economically empowering the women residing in rural areas of Guatemala.

“Women are a very powerful force of change, if given the opportunities,” Pacheco said, adding that “most women will typically invest 80 to 90 percent of their income in improving their children’s nutrition, health and education.” Guatemala has one of the biggest gender gaps in the world and women have limited access to jobs and schooling.

The road to prosperity begins with training through Pacheco’s sister organization, Communities of the Earth, a business incubator that targets women throughout Guatemala and teaches them how to make bracelets and necklaces. These women collaborate in small groups called “value chains” which are comprised of more than 300 individuals to craft products. The products are then sent to Kiej de Los Bosques, Pacheco’s social company which bridges the gap between local weavers and artisans in rural communities and urban markets. The women receive a monthly stipend based upon the amount they produce per order, which provides a sustained income.

“With Queta Rodriquez, my business partner, we realized it was hard to sell products to just Guatemalan communities. So we decided to start an umbrella brand that would sell an assortment of handicraft products in international markets,” said Pacheco.

This “lifestyle” brand is known as Wakami and it is currently exporting to 20 countries, being produced in 17 villages, and generating income for 450 people. According to Pacheco, the fashion accessories of the Wakami brand are meant to inspire people to “be their dream,” enjoy life and share positivity with those around them.

Wakami also partners with other social businesses or NGOs that allow women to invest in services and products that will improve the lives of themselves and their families. These include water filters, improved stoves, latrines and organic gardens.

Pacheco has observed positive changes in the rural villages thus far. “Women are now valued in their families and contribute more to decisions and investments. Also, the average weight of children has improved from eight to 30 percent and high school attendance is more than double the national rate at 92 percent,” said Pacheco.

While much progress has been made, Pacheco feels as though “this is just the beginning.” She plans to begin selling other products through the Wakami brand such as bags and scarves, and also wants to include people in rural villages from other areas of the world in the value chains.

When asked what she would ultimately like to achieve through her efforts to generate economic change, Pacheco simply said “transformation.” And, in many rural villages of Guatemala, the first steps toward transformation have already been taken.

Abby Bauer

Sources: Wakami, Kiej de Los Bosques, Encyclopedia of the Nations, Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank
Photo: ComeTogetherTrading