Lotus Leadership Awards Gala Hosted by First U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer
New York City, June 18, 2014 — The Asia Foundation and the Lotus Circle, a community of individuals and organizations working with The Asia Foundation to empower women and girls in Asia, today honor Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus at the fourth annual Lotus Leadership Awards in New York City, now an evening gala. Professor Yunus will receive a Lotus Award for his Nobel Prize-winning vision to give small loans to poor women to lift themselves out of poverty. The Estée Lauder Companies will also receive a Lotus Award for its partnership with the Foundation to help young girls in Vietnam to continue their secondary school education. The Asia Foundation is a pioneer in women’s economic empowerment, recognized widely as a driver of poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth.
Asia Foundation Trustee Ambassador Melanne Verveer will host the evening’s celebration. Ambassador Verveer was appointed by President Obama in 2009 as the First U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and worked on behalf of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton and Former President Jimmy Carter will make special video appearances congratulating the honorees and recognizing The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program, now in its 20th year. Missie Rennie, vice chair of Foundation’s Board of Trustees and a former CBS News executive producer and winner of a George Foster Peabody Award and her husband Zach Taylor; and Winnie Feng, who has served on the Metropolitan Museum’s executive committee for Friends of Asian Art, and her husband Michael, are gala co-chairs.
“Access to finance is a key issue for women entrepreneurs and Professor Yunus has helped level the playing field so that women can access credit and lift themselves and their families out of poverty,” said Carol Yost, senior director of the Women’s Empowerment Program at The Asia Foundation. In the 1970s, Professor Yunus began giving small loans to poor village women to start a business in Bangladesh and he made micro-finance a household word through The Grameen Bank that has now been replicated in more than 100 countries reaching millions of disadvantaged women.
“We value The Estée Lauder Companies’ generous commitment to improving the lives of young women in Asia,” said Yost. In 2014, the Foundation and The Estée Lauder Companies announced the expansion of a multi-year partnership to provide disadvantaged girls in Vietnam with scholarships to attend secondary school for three years. More than 200 girls in the Mekong Delta region have been able to stay in school and reach their full potential. “Together, The Estée Lauder Companies and The Lotus Circle make it possible for us to reach girls and women in Asia to Tell Her She Can,” said Yost.
Nani Zulminarni, founder of Women-Headed Household Empowerment in Indonesia, or PEKKA, will also receive a Lotus Leadership Award. Since 2001, she has helped more than 10,000 women heads of household in 19 provinces.
The Lotus Leadership Awards were created by a group of individuals and organizations who share The Asia Foundation’s goal of helping women and girls in Asia reach their full potential and to “Tell Her She Can.” Proceeds will be used to fund pilot projects to empower women and girls in the region. The Estée Lauder Companies is the Premier Sponsor of this year’s awards. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Vista Equity Partners are Golden Benefactors. Bravia Capital; China Guardian Auctions Co, LTD; Christie’s; EY; Kirkland & Ellis; Morgan Stanley; Tiffany & Co.; and Toyota are Benefactors. Chevron and Citi Private Bank are Patrons.
To mark the Foundation’s 60th anniversary, President David D. Arnold earlier this year announced a year-long global campaign focused on critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century, including the exclusion of women from political and economic life. Mr. Arnold argued that the issue threatens to reverse Asia’s economic gains and undermine its future growth and development. To learn more, read In Asia for interviews with Gala Co-Chair and Lotus Circle Advisor Winnie Feng on her belief in the importance of empowerment and education, an interview with Ms. Zulminarni, and an essay by Véronique Salze-Lozac’h, the Foundation’s Senior Director for Economic Development Programs.