Barbara Kinney / Clinton Foundation
Mar 06
March 6, 2015

Ceiling Breakers for Future Leaders in Poverty Alleviation for Women


This weekend, the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) is holding its annual meeting at the University of Miami, where future leaders gather to make Commitments to Action and share ideas and best practices for social change. College students make Commitments to Action, which solve real world problems and produce specific, measurable results in the areas of education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. In honor of the CGI U 2015 meeting and Women’s History Month, we’re kicking off our Ceiling Breakers series by featuring CGI U commitment-makers who are dedicated to improving the lives of women.

In 2013, Sahadev Rai, a graduate of Westminster College with a degree in international relations and diplomacy, transnational studies, and international business, founded the Yang-Ward Foundation, which trains residents in the Kot region of Nepal in cash crop production to create local jobs and raises money to improve local school facilities. The Yang-Ward Foundation leases land for five years at a discounted cost to local community members who are learning to grow and sell green beans, spinach, potatoes, onions, and chilies. By creating opportunities for local employment, Sahadev aims to reduce the number of local residents seeking jobs overseas.  A percentage of profits from cash crop production are also used to develop computer labs and libraries in local schools.

In 2010, Grace Ochieng from St. Lawrence University committed to starting a microfinance sewing project that would create reusable, washable, and eco-friendly sanitary pads in the rural village of Lwala, Kenya. New Vision Women’s Sewing Cooperative empowers women in Lwala by creating jobs and providing skills training, stimulates the local economy, and improves attendance for girls in primary and secondary schools. Women who sew and sell the pads also conduct menstrual health workshops for the girls of Lwala to improve community health. Grace’s passion for promoting gender equality and empowering women led to a Clinton Global Initiative University Outstanding Commitment Award in the summer of 2010 as well as an honorary invitation to attend the 55th session of the Commission on the status of women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in the Spring 2011. By August 2011, eight women from Lwala were employed and trained in business management and machine sewing skills. Grace and her team have partially employed an additional 12 subcontracted tailors and manufactured 2,000 menstrual pads, 400 school uniforms for girls in grades 6-8 in three different schools, and sewed 1,000 cotton bags per season for Thistle Farms.

In 2009, Ximena Murillo, who graduated from St. Thomas University in Houston with a Master in International Business, committed to create community centers that would empower 1,500 women from ten different impoverished mine areas of Bolivia through literacy and occupational training. At the community centers, women learn to read and write, become informed about their legal rights, receive occupational training, and are encouraged to explore new careers. They have the opportunity to work toward financial independence, and are able to provide for their families and strengthen their communities. Ximena was inspired to launch a nonprofit organization, Bolivia Bella, as a result of the success she had with her Commitment to Action. Each program cycle includes 100 hours of education and 100 hours of skills training for 20-30 women, with 10-15 women in each class. As of this summer, 100 women have completed the program. In addition, Ximena has launched a study abroad program for 15 American graduate students who wish to work with women in the mining community. She has also implemented two health focused campaigns for this population, including dental care for 500 children of miners and health kits for 50 female miners with newborns.

Learn more about CGI U 2015.

Inspired by this story?

Send a message of encouragement to this ceiling breaker and share why their story inspires you. We will share these messages with each ceiling breaker at the end of March.