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SDG Action: Opportunity International at the United Nations

By Joe Dutra

“The SDGs are not about checking boxes.  They’re about the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people and the health of our natural environment.  They’re about righting historic wrongs, healing global divisions and putting our world on a path to lasting peace.” – UN Secretary General Antonio Guitierrez.

This year’s United Nations General Assembly was more than a convening of leaders, it was a clarion call for action. With data showing a slowdown in progress for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UN and other global leaders used this year’s UNGA as a means to drive new action toward achieving a world without poverty – and Opportunity International’s Simona Haiduc and Andrew McCusker were there to bring the voices of our clients into focus for leaders and changemakers from around the world.

And similar to Opportunity CEO Atul Tandon’s discussion with the Associated Press on inspiring passion for the SDGs, our teammates sought to uplift the hopes of those in attendance at the week’s activities.

Making Waves at the SDG Action Weekend

The convening started with SDG Action Weekend, meant to bring together stakeholders, UN entities, and Member States to set out new specific commitments and contributions to drive global transformation and achieve the SDGs between now and 2030.

Opportunity International, represented by the articulate Simona Haiduc, our Managing Director of Strategic Partnerships, voiced a commitment towards not only poverty alleviation but a holistic approach to achieving all SDGs.

In two panels, Simona highlighted the significant role of women and youth-led SMEs in global economic progress and the immense potential that technological advancements have for the least developed nations – places where Opportunity has decades of experience. Simona articulated the challenges we still face, like the impacts of COVID, inflation, and geopolitical unrest. But more importantly, she was able to share how collaboration and innovative strategies are actively alleviating poverty and enhancing economic prospects – even in the face of these global challenges.

Simona’s perspective as the only NGO leader on her panels shed light on how financial inclusion and humanitarian efforts can synergize and create real outcomes. Some of the key takeaways from her events included:

  • Investing in women and youth and supporting the end of extreme poverty is not a charitable endeavor, it is a good investment. We need everyone to believe in and invest in women and youth – not just donors but on-the-ground partners, advocates, and financial institutions.
  • We need to address digital inclusion alongside financial inclusion. The most effective way to involve and reach rural women and families is through digital solutions. We’re proud to offer high-touch, high-tech solutions that serve these families, and partners help us scale this technology.

You can find Simona’s panel discussion on supporting women and youth led business owners here.

Spotlight on Global Education at the UNGA Side Event

After the weekend, the UNGA side event hosted by Opportunity International EduFinance Head Andrew McCusker brought together distinguished panelists from organizations like Luminos Fund, Street Child, Global Business Coalition for Education, and more, the discourse centered on the future of global education.

Debunking the myth of a supposed divide between access to education and its quality, the panel unanimously championed the cause of guaranteeing access as the precursor to quality. The insights presented also underscored the importance of grassroots initiatives, emphasizing collaboration with local communities as paramount to achieving scalable success.

Another staggering revelation pointed to the global need for nearly 67 million new teachers by 2030, setting the stage for organizations to rise to this immense challenge.

You can learn more about the need for more schools, teachers, and activities for the world’s emerging youth here.

A Unified Voice for Change

As champions for the economic empowerment of marginalized communities, Opportunity is at the forefront of driving real impact. But it all starts with understanding the needs and strengths of the millions we serve around the globe, which is why events like this are so very important – and should illicit hope in all of us. These events were not just platforms for dialogue but were potent reminders of the collective responsibility and the potential of collaborative efforts.  With organizations like Opportunity International taking the lead, there's renewed hope for a world free from poverty and where quality education is accessible to all.


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