Karen Sugar has worked for social justice and improving the lives of women for most of her adult life. While in graduate school, Sugar was introduced to the concept of microfinance. She became passionate about the potential for poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment. Before she even walked across the stage to get her diploma, she was planting the seeds for Women’s Global Empowerment Fund, which she founded in 2007. Her Master’s thesis was titled, The Power and Possibility of Microfinance, arguing that microcredit alone can be an effective tool at poverty alleviation, but when bundled with social programming and leadership development, can truly be transformational for women. Her motivation is the belief that poverty is imposed, and entirely possible to eradicate extreme poverty.
Before founding WGEF, Sugar worked with homeless women and children in Atlanta, Georgia; was a community organizer for reproductive rights in Denver, Colorado. She teaches and lectures in Colorado, nationally and internationally about microfinance, philanthropy, sustainable human development and women’s empowerment.
In a 2012 Denver Post article by John Moore, Sugar was quoted, “When you give a small loan, and support, to a woman, you see the entire family potentially lifted out of extreme poverty,” she said. Sugar’s driving force was helping women, she said, “because, as women, we all have a common experience. No matter what we look like, or the color of our skin or our religious beliefs, we’ve all experienced violence or abuse, marginalization, oppression, sexism, a lack of adequate health care and the challenge of raising healthy children.”
Sugar and her organization have been recognized by the Altis program and the Catholic University of Milan, receiving the International WorkLife Balance Award in 2012; 2013 Sugar received the University of Colorado Alumni Leadership Award. In 2015 Sugar received the Global Changemakers Lifetime Leadership award from the Foundation of Global Scholars. Sugar and WGEF are featured frequently on the Ugandan Broadcast Corporation and other news outlets in Uganda.
Sugar says, “I found microcredit to be compelling. I have worked with and studied poverty issues almost all of my adult life, but really began to focus on global environmental and poverty issues, the dire consequences of poverty in the developing world and how it is connected and interrelated to the industrialized world. The marginalization and oppression of women around the globe is the issue which inspired me to act and through economic, social and leadership development I have found an innovative vehicle in which to make a long term difference.”
Ms. Sugar has a B.S. from Arizona State University in Political Science; M.A. from University of Colorado at Denver; she resides in Denver Colorado where WGEF is based, traveling frequently to Gulu and elsewhere to work in the field with staff and clients. She is an Instructor at CU Denver, Political Science Department and is the author of the book, Revolution: one woman at a time. Sugar is the mother of two lovely young women.
Orphaned at a young age, Bukenya Musa developed an urge to do something to help people suffering in his country. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a certificate in counseling he set up a fledgling non-profit in Gulu, northern Uganda. He joined Women’s Global Empowerment Fund in the fall of 2007, and his excellent leadership skills and dedication have enabled the organization to loan money to over 1900 women to date. Not only does he act as Program Director in the Gulu office, he is thought of as stable and caring to WGEF clients, always providing encouragement and support.
In addition to his work with WGEF and its clients, Bukenya is working towards a Master’s in Business Administration. He completed his degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Makere Univeristy in Kampala, Uganda.
“I will never forget the leader of the office, (Bukenya) who was like a brother to every woman who visits the office. He was encouraging me that, Gladys, you can make it.” Gladys Piloya, WGEF client
After graduating with an undergraduate degree in social work, Eunice Apiyo returned to her home in northern Uganda working to rebuild her community, helping the women and children of the region recover and reconcile.
Eunice received her degree from Kyambogo University, she speaks several tribal languages, enabling her provide the critical communication necessary for our clients to succeed and feel comfortable. She has excellent management and
leadership skills and has been an integral part of our organization since being hired in 2008.
Eunice works with all of our clients, provides training, attends repayment meetings, manages the office, coordinates events and programming, and is a shining, bright, energetic young woman who our clients can trust and admire.