Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) Founder and Director Karen Sugar explains empowerment as “a concept that gives life to the idea that a woman can be an agent of change in her own life, determining her own future. Within the context of my work, I define empowerment as ‘one’s ability to access resources, make choices, and determine life outcomes.’”
Sugar was a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver in 2007 when she founded WGEF in Uganda, a country that was recovering from a long and brutal civil insurgency. “I created the organization based on the belief that women are natural leaders and, when offered meaningful opportunities, are able to rise above abject poverty with dignity while advancing self-determination”.
Sugar created a model for microfinance and development called Credit Plus; what makes this intervention unique is the inclusion of a political dimension and leadership training. Currently, WGEF has 572 members serving in leadership positions across the regions. “This is one of the outcomes I am most inspired by,” Sugar says. “Women are courageous and capable. No matter how challenging their daily lives, women want to lead and rebuild their communities.”
Ten years in, WGEF celebrates achievements that include: providing more than 4,500 women with literacy training, distributing 15,000 loans (average $60), hosting a yearly drama festival, building a unique and acclaimed Access to Justice Initiative and Peer Counseling projects, and launching an impactful Healthy Periods Initiative (HPI) which blends education, microenterprise, and access to locally made sanitary products for school girls and other vulnerable communities. “Empowerment must include equality and liberties for all,” Sugar says. “Only when all people are imbued with dignity, justice, and human rights can we say that we are empowered.”
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