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“A league of their own”: Women in development discuss America’s global impact

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Photo from left: Liz Schrayer, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (moderator); Dana Hyde, Millennium Challenge Corporation; Gayle Smith, U.S. Agency for International Development; Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC; Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Peace Corps; Lee Zak, U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth L. Littlefield joined four other women who head U.S. agencies focused on development on June 13 to discuss the impact of the United States’ work in global development, the move toward more sustainable development, and what development meant to them on a personal level.

During the 2016 State Leaders Summit, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition assembled the panel, A league of their own, in reference to the strong representation of female leaders in the U.S. development sector. Together with Littlefield, leaders from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the U.S. Agency for International Development, spoke about some of the world’s greatest development needs and the best ways to make a positive impact.

“American capital and American business can really be a powerful force for good,” Littlefield said during the panel. “In a world where America is so often misunderstood. It is incredibly powerful to have American businesses working in partnership with (local) businesses financed by a U.S. government agency investing in the very things those people want most from their own governments. Clean water, low income housing, education, healthcare and clinics. I find that is where we can help transform our businesses into really powerful ambassadors for the U.S. that are demonstrating the best American goodwill, intentions and creativity in solving the world’s problems. “

Littlefield also described her work in West Africa early in her career when she helped establish microfinance institutions that provided loans to female entrepreneurs, and how she returned years later to see how one borrower had been able to earn enough income from her business to improve her home and send her children to school.

“That is the kind of woman I find incredibly inspiring, who is really putting education first,” said Littlefield, who said the story underscored how microfinance lending could benefit multiple generations, “especially when it is focused on girls and empowerment.”

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