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Clinton Global Initiative 2012: Momentum on Women’s Empowerment, Global Food Security

By Opportunity International

The Clinton Global Initiative annual 2012 meeting wrapped up this past Tuesday. This year’s theme, Designing for Impact, provided a three-day podium for today’s leading ideas intent on creating more opportunity and equality in our increasingly interconnected world. This year’s distinguished attendees included President Barack Obama, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, President Joyce Banda (of the Republic of Malawi), former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, and President Felipe Calderón (of Mexico), to name a few. This year’s CGI meeting was a great success, inspiring a wealth of forward-thinking dialogue and instilling the idea that we can all work more creatively and collaboratively to design a future worth pursuing.

Former President Bill Clinton and Malawi President Joyce Banda sign documents during the first day of CGI 2012. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Day 1 (Sunday, Sept. 23) kicked off with a focus on Designing for Impact. In the meeting’s opening session, former President Bill Clinton moderated a lively discussion intent on exploring how we can realize success in our commitments to creating more and ever-expanding opportunities and equalities for those across the world. Building upon this theme, Reeta Roy, president and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation (and the recipient last fall, on behalf of the Foundation, of the Women’s Opportunity Network’s 2011 Women’s Leadership Award) discussed the vital importance of improving financial literacy and increasing access to financial services for youths, particularly those in the developing world. Special emphasis was on expanding the opportunities afforded to young women worldwide.

The excitement of CGI 2012 continued well into Monday with the announcement of a commitment by Women Deliver to launch Catapult, a crowdfunding platform focused on, and dedicated to, advancing the lives of women and girls around the world. Commenting on the need to focus global efforts towards cultivating a better quality of life for future generations of women, Jill W. Sheffield, president of Women Deliver, said, “We know that when we invest in girls and women, everyone wins.”

The Future of Food panel at the final plenary session of CGI. (Flickr: Clinton Global Initiative)Monday also saw participants and attendees wrestling with the problem of how to empower women with increased decision-making and management responsibilities in their respective communities. Moderating the discussion was New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. Kristof has long touted the empowerment of women through global microfinance initiatives as co-author of the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and as an advocate of the Half the Sky Movement. He writes, “Microfinance has done more to bolster the status of women, and to protect them from abuse, than any laws could accomplish. Capitalism, it turns out, can achieve what charity and good intentions sometimes cannot.”

The final day of the annual meeting saw the discussion shift from women’s empowerment to the plenary session topic of the day: The Future of Food. The problem, which was also discussed at last year’s CGI, articulated to attendees was clear; our current food system is not sustainable and something must be done to ensure the livelihood of all future generations regardless of nationality. Discussions included ideas on how to bolster workers’ livelihoods. The day’s dialogue on agriculture highlighted the need to protect the farmers living in the direst poverty from crop failure and unforeseen agricultural illnesses. The discussion, led by Patrice Martin and Jocelyn Wyatt of IDEO.org, presented tangible steps to prevent catastrophe. Reflecting one of Opportunity’s agricultural finance products, one of the speakers’ solutions was small-scale crop insurance for those whose livelihoods depend on the unpredictability of nature.

All in all, the 2012 CGI annual meeting was a resounding success. Ever a consortium of ideas, discussion and commitments to progress, I feel the case for optimism concerning the future of our planet and its people is stronger than ever.

This post was written by Brad Skeba, a graduate of Dallas’s SMU and holds degrees in English Composition and Creative Advertising. Brad is a fall intern with Opportunity International’s Resource Development department.

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