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2008 » February

March 8 Is International Women’s Day

February 29, 2008 by  

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Women International Women’s Day Is March 8! Since 1908, International Women’s Day has been a day to recognize the achievements of women around the world regardless of nationality, ethnic background, culture, economic status or political beliefs. To honor this day, Women for Women International offices around the world hold events ranging from quiet and reflective meetings to loud and festive celebrations. In Baghdad, women have rallied at the capitol for equal treatment… In Afghanistan you’ll find women praying, holding poetry readings and demonstrating martial arts to show empowerment. In the DR Congo, women hold parades and protests against unpunished sexual assaults… In Kosovo the women are treated to flowers and free food. And here in the US, people across the country are hosting a variety of events in honor of International Women’s Day. This year, Women for Women International is creating a bridge between the women they serve in the field and the women who support them. You can get involved by hosting house parties, holding open dialogues about violence against women, organizing a Run for Congo Women, hosting an art exhibit, etc. You can also send them…

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April’s Notes from the Road: India

February 28, 2008 by  

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As I am scheduled to return to India next month for the first time in seven years (my current itinerary includes Bangalore, Chennai and some time in the countryside of Tamil Nadu), it seemed appropriate to refresh my Indian memories and dust off my first travelogue from that country. In 2000 I spent a few months in northern India, focused principally on the region of Rajasthan. This trip took place before my “official” entry into the world of microfinance. Given that India represents the largest and most robust single-country microfinance market in the world today, I look forward to recombining my interests in travel and economic development and experiencing the changes and differences between north and south first-hand! “Namaste” – warmest greetings in Hindi, whose literal meaning is “I bow before you.” I have just completed several weeks’ travel in and around the Indian subcontinent, where my focus was primarily on the state of Rajasthan (in northwestern India). I chose to concentrate on this region for a variety of reasons – its rich history and religious and cultural diversity, its reputation for bright sarees and rich textiles, a dear friend who lives in nearby Delhi, and the fact that trying…

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Invent Your Future for Women

February 26, 2008 by  

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Invent_future Check out Invent Your Future, a women’s conference at Microsoft’s Mountain View offices this week on February 26 and February 27th. You can register here. Conference agenda here. They plan to cover everything from negotiations, power & authority to innovation and retaining talent and getting funding for your own idea or business. They’ll run through factors most important to banks, seed round investors and government agencies when evaluating potential investments. Another interesting topic will include a look at the 10 Behaviors that Undermine Clout — and the 10 that Add Clout. The goal is to discover why many smart, talented women are not put in positions of power even if they deserve to be. And on negotiations (one of my favorites), they’ll explore ways in which we (as women) handicap our own success in negotiations because of ideas and perspectives that are not true. How about issues such as: who should make the first offer? honesty as the best policy, room at the bargaining table for emotions and accepting offers. What are the best practices that American companies can use to retain women as they face an international war for talent?  And that’s just Day 1.


Full Circle Fund on Change in California

February 25, 2008 by  

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The Full Circle Fund talks to us about change. About how to make a change. About investing (your time and money) in the right things, with a particular focus on California. Van Jones is also involved among other major technology entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. They remind us that less than 13% can afford to buy a median home in the Bay Area and that California is among the 5 worst states in reading and math. Check out the video.


Morgan Stanley\ Women’s World Banking MF Conference in NYC

February 25, 2008 by  

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I spent yesterday at a microfinance conference co-sponsored by Morgan Stanley and Women’s World Banking in New York. I was pleased to find that one of the primary areas of focus and discussion was equity investment opportunities for the microfinance sector. This covered a range of topics, from MFI equity valuations to equity investor selection criteria. I can’t help but think that not even two years ago such an equity-heavy event would have been unthinkable, much less feasible for microfinance — debt and limited types of structured finance were the topics realistically within reach then. And to that end, I can only imagine with enthusiasm what an event such as this may tackle two years’ from now! The afternoon saw a ‘competition’ among three MFIs, the Kashf Foundation from Pakistan, Share Microfin from India and Findesa from Nicaragua. Each of these MFIs had been paired with an investment analyst team from Morgan Stanley and tasked to develop a pitch related to its ideal capital structure and investor base. The presentations were, in a word, fantastic. (If I were Kashf, Share Microfin…

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The Saffron Kitchen

February 24, 2008 by  

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SaffronI seem to be on a roll lately with novels set in Afghanistan and Iran. There always seems to be a character named Maryam and she’s always returning to her homeland — in her mind, or for real, to deal with the skeletons in her closet and the ever so dark dreams that have haunted her since childhood. The latest of these is The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther. The author’s tale switches back and forth between England where she lives with her family as an adult and a small Iranian village with very few modern comfortable amenities, where her life began. Like the theme unraveled in every other novel I’ve touched lately, there are a series of tragic consequences related to being a woman, related to war, related to cultural protocols that destroy rather than build, related to obedience and the guilt that hits years later once freedom becomes a reality. The Saffron Kitchen is about the connection between mothers and daughters, roots and exile and the power of family bonds. It’s also about our earliest of loves, when we are shaped by nothing but innocent dreams,…

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My Work in Togo

February 24, 2008 by  

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I know what I’m working on, usually, but you might not.  So here is a short update of my various projects after being here in Sokode for 6 months.
  • Computer Club with about 15- 20 students.  We are creating a website together.  I will let you know when it launches.
  • Programming Class with about 10 students in the last year of Lycée.  I have some incredibly bright students in this class and it is fun to teach them progrgamming, even as they are still learning pretty basic computer usage (typing)
  • Training 5 teachers in basic computer skills so they can teach students themselves next year.  We covered MS Windows, Word , Excel (including formulas and charts), image manipulation with GIMP and drawing with OpenOffice Draw.   They also use OpenOffice.
  • Teaching English at a computer training center. I try to focus on technical or business terms.
  • A savings and loan womens group (think micro micro finance.  The women save and loan all the money themselves)
  • A new radio show once a week in English ( just starting)
  • Occasionally going to various schools in the area and speaking in English or French about America and the Peace Corps.  I love


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The Sedona Furniture Psychic

February 19, 2008 by  

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In January, I took a side trip to Sedona, historical Prescott and Jerome, Arizona. It was, if you will, a rustic furniture-buying mission. When it comes to design and decorating, I’m one of those people who loves vibrant colors, spontaneity and change, so I’m moving a slick silver clean-lined table out of my office and into the hallway in favor of the first rustic one that jumps and says “I’m it.” Speaking of energy. Speaking of rustic. All three places made great choices for such a mission. I browsed through numerous stores ranging from holes in the wall and high-end furniture stores to vintage and antique shops. At the tail end of a desert road just outside Sedona, I discovered a store that had oodles of things I’d be happy with, all of course with price tags that were certain to break the bank if I stayed too long. Add shipping to that, and it turned into a browsing experience without action. Before this realization, however, a woman came over to me and watched how I was responding to some of the items and then how I’d share a potential decorating idea with my traveling companion. We learn that she…

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