Women’s World Banking 40 Year Gala highlights

Michaela Walsh (inset) is an activist, scholar, mentor, educator, and author. She was a pioneer woman manager with Merrill Lynch in Beirut, Lebanon, in the ’60s, first woman Partner of Boettcher in the ’70s, and in 1980, Founding President of Women’s World Banking.

Below is her speech during the WWB Gala

With many worldwide thank you’s, I share my message with you…

“I would like to look back and remind us all of how important it is to remember that WWB was conceived in 1975 and created by only a very few committed and persistent people.  Because of them/us and because of all the believers and committed people who continued to give new life to a new idea, it has survived and grown.

From the beginning, we did not lead; we listened and learned from partners worldwide —partners we did not know. A friend suggested to me that because we were empowering our partners, we created the first effective and sustainable women’s owned and managed global network.

Personally I have always been known as a troublemaker and have lived my life as an adventurer and a risk-taker. This has rarely bothered me because I feel like dissention creates movement. Certainly, WWB has been a great adventure. It has been built by believers who often disagreed but trusted one another, working together as global citizens to help make life better for low-income entrepreneurial women.

For me, tonight is to say thank you to:

My family and friends who hung in there with “my pie in the sky idea,”

Bill Dietel, president of the RBF suggesting I go to the Mexico City in 1975 UN Women’s Conference,

Esther Ocloo, Peg Snyder, and Ela Bhatt, for being the real pioneers.

The small group of believers who kept promoting a new world bank for women including Virginia Saurvein and Carolyn Pezzulo with whom I worked for 4 years.

Brad Morris and UNDP for the first program support.

Floris Bannier, Siska Pothoff, Rudolf Mees, And Triodos Bank for working together to establish a Dutch legal structure for WWB.

Martha Stuart for our first two videoed global meetings.

Margarita de Guzman and John Hammoch for sharing their local lending models with WWB affiliates, and for helping design a management-training program for affiliate leaders.

Patricia Cloherty for her groundbreaking essay about building small businesses instead of charity grants.

Sylvia Chin for years and years of taking detailed minutes,

Lilia Clemente who transformed our first $1700.00 and turned it into $1 million — and Deanna Roseneswig and CIDA for helping build WWB’s investment model.

Jennifer Riria and Mary Ellen who assumed leadership roles of WWB and KWFT at similar perilous times and are leading them into the future. 40 years and counting!

The most important for me is thanking Nancy Barry, the real risk-taker among us who had the courage to step into my shoes and carry WWB into its second decade  — with Telex … –— no emails or free global communication. She cemented the global network of affiliates, semi-annual global meetings and open shared policy discussions.

All old and new friends who are here tonight, my special thanks from millions of women who now own their own production. And I might add reproduction.

Finally, thanks to Dan Linke, the digitized archives of WWB, which are available worldwide at the Princeton Mudd library, and to Nancy Carson and John Long for helping turn hundreds of interviews and systems about what we did together into… FOUNDING A MOVEMENT.

And, to the world of younger women networks who are finding your voices and seats at the design table. I hope you understand … risk leads to return and it leads to adventure.  I pray you will enjoy an adventure like the one Women’s World Banking gave me. Be FEROCIOUS as the new global risk-takers going forward toward sustainable futures and peace for all. I would love to help drive your bus.

Thank you.

Michaela Walsh
New York

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