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March 11, 2009

Empowerment at Work: Women Breaking Down Barriers in Our Global World

Those who help women around the world break through economic and social barriers and some who have succeeded came together at St. Francis College's Maroney Forum for Arts, Culture & Education, Wednesday, March 11 for the symposium, Empowerment at Work: Women Breaking Down Barriers in Our Global World.

Sarita Gupta, Vice President for Global Resources and Communications from Women's World Banking (WWB) spoke about how microfinancing, loans of $500 or less, opens untold doors of financial opportunity for women, with her family and community all reaping the positive benefits in the long run. She told of a woman in India who collects metal bottle caps and sells them as scrap. The WWB sponsored loan allowed her to buy a machine to flatten the caps, which doubles the value of the metal. Now that woman is running a full business with two additional employees.

Purvi Shah, the Executive Director of Sakhi, which means 'woman friend' explained that the mission of her organization is to help South Asian women in and around New York City who are victims of domestic violence. Ms. Shah emphasized that to have the greatest impact they do more than just help with the immediate physical and mental effects of abuse. They also offer education programs, skills training and job placements; reasoning that a woman who can become economically self-sufficient is better prepared to walk away from an abusive relationship.

Selena Cuffe, President & CEO of Heritage Link Brands, led the final part of the symposium introducing a collection of South African women who have formed wineries in Capetown. The women, in the United States on a marketing tour, shared their experiences in how they navigated the South African business world and overcame numerous obstacles to bring their wines to store shelves, and strive to ensure that their businesses 'make a difference' in the lives of other South Africans.

Empowerment at Work was sponsored by the St. Francis College Women's Studies Center and the Department of Business & Technology. Psychology Professor Michele Hirsch and Business Chairman John Dilyard organized the event.

"Dr. Dilyard and I wanted to sponsor a symposium with a focus on how others are helping to improve the global issue of financial inequity," said Dr. Hirsch. "Today's event was developed to showcase the "how" and the "who" of helping women who don't have the means to support themselves and their children. With the help of the work provided by our panelists and their organizations, we can be assured that the world is making headway to achieve gender equity and empowerment."

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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