Brava Magazine May 2015 : Page 50

Thinking Global THE POWER OF FEMALE POTENTIAL: MADISON WOMEN REACH ACROSS CONTINENTS AND CULTURES TO IMPROVE LIVES Living Local , T BY LISA BAUER PHOTOGRAPHED BY HILLARY SCHAVE HE WORLD SEEMS SMALL after all when consid-ered through the ef-forts of local women working for change in FˬR&#0e;ǢUNG PLˬCES&#0f; ŀEIRS ˬRE THE KINDS OF ENTERPRISES ˬND OUT -comes that inextricably connect women there, with women here IN.ˬDISON&#0f; At the forefront is UW-Mad-ISONmS ǢˬGSHIP (LOBˬL )EˬLTH Institute, which showcases local leaders bettering the world here ˬNDˬBROˬD&#0f;"TITSHELM&#0d;CREˬTING and driving the institute, Lori %I1RETE #ROWN ˬND $INDY )ˬQ embody the notion that local WOMENˬREINSPIRˬTIONˬLCHˬNGE ˬGENTS ON ˬ WORLD STˬGE&#0f; nŀE POWER ˬND POTENTIˬL OF WOMEN locally acting globally is huge,” SˬYS %I1RETE #ROWN&#0d; (LOBˬL )EˬLTH *NSTITUTEmS ()*&#0a; ˬSSO -CIˬTE DIRECTOR&#0f; n8ISCONSIN HˬS a tradition of strong women IN LEˬDERSHIP ROLES THˬT REˬCH beyond our backyard,” adds 50 BRAVA MAGAZINE | MAY 2015

LivingLocal, Thinking Global

Lisa Bauer


THE WORLD SEEMS SMALL after all when considered through the efforts of local women working for change in far-flung places, "Theirs are the kinds of enterprises and outcomes that inextricably connect women there, with women here in Madison.

At the forefront is UW-Madison's flagship Global Health Institute, which showcases local leaders bettering the world here andabroad. At its helm, creating and driving the institute, Lori DiPrete Brown and Cindy Haq embody the notion that local women are inspirational change agents on a world stage, ""The power and potential of women locally acting globally is huge," says DiPrete Brown, Global Health Institute's (GHI) associate director. "Wisconsin has a tradition of strong women in leadership roles that reach beyond our backyard," adds Haq, who founded GHI's precursor. To date, more than 1,200 students have gone through GHI programs; most of them are women. Leaders at UW value global work. DiPrete Brown says, ""They recognize that Wisconsin women bring SO much to international spaces then bring lessons home and have a new lens through which they look at their lives and work."

DiPrete Brown and Haq both found their calling at a young age: Haq lived with her American mother and Indian father in Pakistan as a child and saw poverty firsthand. DiPrete Brown's early service in the Peace Corps lead her to work in Latin America and Africa before coming to UW where she oversees global health education and the newly founded 4W Initiative (Women and Well-Being in Wisconsin and the World). A collaborative effort with the Department of Gender and Women's Studies and the School of Human Ecology, 4W improves the lives of women by promoting research, leadership training, community engagement and evidence-based policy, in areas such as sex trafficking, microenterprise, health and the arts. International work benefits Wisconsin. DiPrete Brown says, "As women work together to empower each other, often we see the local/global distinctions fall away." She will bring women from Ecuador to Wisconsin where they'll visit with the Bad River Community to share indigenous experiences and traditions. She adds, "Rural Wisconsin can be a rich place to make global connections."

An inspirational and innovative teacher, Haq has educated generations of physicians and strengthened primary health care for under served populations here and abroad. Her beliefs took shape in Uganda in 1986, a time when 3 out of 10 Ugandan children died before the age of 5. "I came back to Wisconsin and saw things differently," she says, ""There are disparities between countries, but also within countries and between neighborhoods, including in Wisconsin." After decades of international work that still continues, Haq brings her experiences home to roost in Milwaukee, where she leads the Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH) program to prepare physicians to promote health equity. To date, 40 percent of these students have had an international experience as part of their training.

Haq says over her long career, she's noted that women, especially, "have a certain sensitivity and ability" for international work. As a mother, Haq has found it easy to connect with mothers everywhere, trough her work in patriarchal societies, such as Afghanistan and Ethiopia, she has served as a champion for women with limited opportunities to make health care decisions. And she thinks women working globally often have a healthy holistic vision. DiPrete Brown and colleagues will take a holistic approach at 4W's first summit in 2016. Haq will continue her work in Milwaukee and lead a UW health professional field course in Uganda.

And as the following profiles illustrate, a cadre of local women undertake global journeys that better the world and provide them with new perspectives in health care, business, philanthropy and other areas.


Adrienne White sold homemade jewelry in her hometown of Chicago to earn money for a soul-searching trip to Africa when she was 15 years old. Like any teen, she struggled with her identity, but her struggle included another layer. "I grew up and experienced racism," says White noting that her mom's activism influenced her own desire to work for social justice. "Being able to go to Africa as a young girl, seeing that black was something I could be proud of, that changed my life and gave me purpose."

She's currently a women's health nurse practitioner for UW student health services, a UW Global Health Capstone Recipient and a board member for the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health. She's an active volunteer with Starfish International, an organization that empowers girls in Gambia. Starfish has kept 100 Gambian girls in schools each year since 2009, built the first children's library, transformed a village through education and carried out a country-wide Ebola prevention campaign, "The organization provides outreach services in health, business, agriculture and family relationships.

After a journey to Ghana in 2000, White first traveled to Gambia in 2011 to visit the family and grave of a Gambian woman and dear friend, who, like White, had been a teen mom. "They shared a dream of working with adolescent girls in Gambia. White's journey with Starfish began with a field experience to Gambia in 2013. She connected with Starfish cofounder and director Mam-Yassin Sarr, a Gambian woman who started Starfish on her grandmother's property.

White's passion for Starfish is fueled by her love of Africa, but also by her belief that we're all a part of a global community. "It's not about going there and helping those poor people," she says, "There are so many strengths in Africa. Starfish girls are proud, strong and resilient. These girls will take leadership roles in the future." In addition to attending school, Starfish girls must run small businesses: photography, tie-dye, sewing or beading, for example. Volunteers from the U.S. and elsewhere travel to Gambia on trips to learn from the strong Starfish girls and share their time and talents with the community.

White's given her time to educate Gambian girls in sexual health and reproduction. She's also learned new skills to share, like soap-making. "I noticed the girls would wash their hands with only water, and I wanted to teach them to make and use soap to reduce illness and prevent Ebola." White says the spread of Ebola is another good example of why we should work globally: "Health crises in other places affect us all."

As recipient of the 2015 UW-Madison Global Health Institute Faculty Staff Travel Award, she'll go back to Gambia this summer to lay groundwork for a community health center. Sarr says Starfish will continue to expand and hopes the organization will have 15 times the current impact, educating 1,500 girls per year. White's dream is to work with Sarr to build an exchange program between young women in Gambia and young African-American women here in Madison. "I want to see us globally connecting with each other," she says. "If I enrich my sister in Gambia, she enriches me."


Sweta Shrestha's mind never strayed from her native Nepal loving to Madison with her family hen she was 10. "When I was in high school, Nepal was in a civil war, and all I could think about was going back," she says. As an undergraduate, she returned to Nepal during a cease-fire.

She's now with UW's Global Health Institute and 4W (Women and Well- Being in Wisconsin and the World). Shrestha helps to strengthen health systems , take care of vulnerable children and work against human trafficking around the world. And she guides undergraduate students on annual global health field courses to her home country.

Shrestha's taken dozens of students to the small village where her parents were born, showing them what health looks like in a developing country, "They stay with families so they see the disparities, but also the strengths of Nepali people," she says. A seasoned international traveler, Shrestha says she grew up surrounded by strong women who've inspired her to work for women globally. But she doesn't see her work as a one-way street. "Helping other people is a dangerous way to think about international engagement," Shrestha says.

She says her UW students discover how Nepali people address disparities and challenges, "Then the students bring critical discussions back to Wisconsin.

Shrestha feels it's important for her as a woman of color to work internationally. "Women around the globe find solidarity in the fact that as a woman of color, I have a leadership position. Everywhere I travel, it makes me realize the rights I take for granted, but it also makes me want to fight for the rights of women at home and abroad."


While working in a sewing machine store in Madison, Margaret Jankowski read an article about a woman who lost her own machine in the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

"She supported herself and her family with her sewing machine," Jankowski says. "It really touched me, and I thought I should do something." Ten years ago she founded "The Sewing Machine Project. Since 2005, her organization has donated more than 1,800 machines locally, nationally and internationally, shipping to eight countries so far, to offer women a livelihood, an outlet for creativity and a way to build community. Sewing machines from Jankowski have found their way to Mexico, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, India, El Salvador, Guatemala and Liberia.

Having learned to sew as a child and made a career of her trade, Jankowski shares sewing with women around the globe.

She tells the story of 900 war widows in Kosovo who created sewing education programs and businesses, of young women in India who used machines to escape from a channel of prostitution, and of refugees here in Wisconsin who've used machines to create community far from home. "I find these women inspiring," she says. "In addition to sewing, they're creating community and empowering themselves."

Jankowski plans to continue to nurture global relationships already established as well as expand to other countries and regions. "When I watch the news, everyone says we are so separate and different," she says. "But people all over the world sew. It's important to be reminded of all the things that connect us."


Nancy Metzger and Jeanne Duffy paved their international paths early. Metzger traveled to Peru when she was 10 years old to meet her father's family. She traversed the world for school and global jobs. Duffy's rural upbringing gave her the travel bug: "I grew up in Iowa and wanted to see the world." She did, spending time in Guatemala setting up schools in ruralvillages.

Both women, now based in Madison, run Working Capital for Community Needs (WCCN), a nonprofit impact investing fund that improves the lives of the working poor in Latin America by providing microfinancing, services and market access. Started in 1984 as a Nicaraguan solidarity organization, WCCN began lending in 1991 with $60,000; WCCN now has $14 million in capital and more than 500 investors, "The organization has lent more than $100 million throughout six Latin American countries. Seventy percent of WCCN borrowers are women.

Ines Callanaupa Quillahuaman is a WCCN success story. With four other Peruvian women in a remote area of the Andes Mountains, she borrowed $192 from a WCCN microfinance partner in 2009. "The women co-signed a loan to buy prized alpaca wool used in their artistic weavings, sold to tourists and others, "The group grew to 45 women who now operate a cooperative and a storefront. "Working in solidarity, these women have increased their borrowing capacity and their savings for the first time in their lives," says Duffy, WCCN's director for North American operations. "Women created jobs for other women in a multiplier effect."

As WCCN executive director, Metzger sees microfinancing as key to spreading wealth and opportunities in a large part of the world that doesn't participate in formal financial systems. In Russia, and her father's native Peru, Metzger saw people fall into poverty as large markets crashed. "I thought, this could happen to any one of us at any time," she says. With language and law degrees, Metzger began her career in those large markets. She adds, "I kept working down from large to small as I realized that microfinance is that bridge between entrepreneurship and hard work."

Duffy says WCCN's work doesn't stop at the bank. "What we do is way beyond lending. We empower women," she says, adding that one of their partners sets up education and health care services alongside credit in Nicaragua and Peru. Since poor health is the number one reason women lose their income, the connection between credit and wellbeing is crucial.

"The world is now such a small place," Duffy says, explaining why she spends her career tackling global problems. "Poverty and peace are directly related." Local activists agreed decades ago when they helped create WCCN as an investment firm for social change: "It started as a community deciding to do something on a local level of commitment that has global impact," Metzger says, "This very much speaks to a tradition in Madison."

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