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Gleitsman Foundation Spotlights Four Global Activists Committed to the Eradication of Poverty.

News Editors/Feature Editors


International Activist Award To Be Presented

to Fazle Abed, Jaya Arunachalem, Roman Imboden and Roy Prosterman

on April 14

Recognizing four activists who have helped the poorest citizens of Africa, the Indian subcontinent and other developing regions move toward empowerment and self-sufficiency, The Gleitsman Foundation will bestow its 2003 International Activist Award upon Fazle Abed, Dr. Jaya Arunachalem, Roman Imboden and Roy Prosterman on April 14. The ceremony, hosted by David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership, will take place at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government (Malkin Penthouse) at 6:30 p.m. following a reception beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Each honoree will receive a sculpture designed by Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. They will also share a $100,000 prize, which in the past has been shared by such world figures as then-African National Congress president Nelson Mandela, Chinese democracy advocate Wei Jingsheng and future Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta.

FAZLE ABED, founder of BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee)

Creator of the largest and one of the most effective NGOs in the world, Fazle Abed is a pioneer in raising the standards of development organizations worldwide. While an executive at a multinational corporation, Abed returned to his native Bangladesh in the early 1970s and witnessed first-hand the devastation wrought by natural disasters and the War of Liberation. Moved to help, especially those in remote areas bordering India who had lost all means of survival, he leveraged his background as an accountant and manager to establish BRAC. Since its founding, it has combated poverty, disease, child mortality and illiteracy on a massive scale by empowering the rural poor, helping 3.8 million women establish 100,000 village organizations, reaching 10 million with its health programs, and disbursing well over $1 billion in loans through a groundbreaking micro-credit program in Bangladesh.

DR. JAYA ARUNACHALEM, founder and president of Working Women's Forum

The architect of a movement including over 700,000 women - the most destitute residents of three southern Indian states - Dr. Jaya Arunachalem has devoted nearly a quarter-century to freeing India's poor from helplessness and exploitation. Trained in economics, geography and management, in 1978 she founded Working Women's Forum, a social organization developing the potential of women, whose strategies have since been honored globally. Through WWF her work has touched several hundred thousand families and relieved them, in a sustainable manner, from poverty, hunger and indebtedness. Also serving as president of a related grassroots trade group, National Union of Working Women, Dr. Arunachalem is currently developing a new network among women from developed and developing nations called the GROOTS (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood) network.

ROMAN IMBODEN, creator of the Multifunctional Platform

Roman Imboden is a visionary who has married tradition with modernity in one of the poorest parts of the world. Having worked as a manager at the grassroots level with the populations of Africa on various rural development and technical projects, he began to recognize that while development at the village level could not take place without electricity and some machinery, imported machines and methods often did not comport with a rural society based on specific ancestral traditions. First helping to install mills in Burkina Faso in 1977, he brought similar progress to Niger before support from the United Nations led to full-scale development of his concept, the Multifunctional Platform, in Mali. Beginning in 1993 under the UN's Development Program, Imboden helped lighten women's workload, raise literacy levels and create income for thousands of Africa's poor, spreading the use of "acceptable technology" across West Africa.

ROY PROSTERMAN, founder of Rural Development Institute

Motivated to do something about the poverty and underdevelopment he had seen first-hand in Liberia and Puerto Rico, Harvard Law School graduate Roy Prosterman left a rising career with one of the nation's top law firms in 1965 to apply the law toward making the world a fairer place. As a young professor teaching property law at the University of Washington School of Law, Prosterman first proposed a program of democratic land reform to address the grievances of the landless poor in developing countries. Helping draft legislation for a "land-to-the-tillers" program in Vietnam between 1970 and 1973, a decade later he went on to found the Seattle-based Rural Development Institute. Its peaceful approach to land reform has been effectively applied in 37 developing countries worldwide, helping more than 120 million farm families gain ownership or similar rights to the land they till, while bringing Prosterman two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

Of the choice of the 2003 International Activist Award winners, Foundation president Alan L. Gleitsman stated, "With nearly half the people in the world forced to live on less than $2 per day, poverty has become the preeminent moral and humanitarian challenge of our age. We must recognize that we should not and cannot leave half the world behind as we seek a better future for ourselves. We are proud to recognize the grassroots efforts of our honorees and hope their work will inspire others to follow in their path."

Established by former business executive Alan L. Gleitsman in 1989, The Gleitsman Foundation is a non-profit organization recognizing and promoting social activism worldwide. The Foundation sponsors international and domestic awards while encouraging grassroots organizations.

The International Activist Award is designed to honor activist achievement worldwide, excluding the U.S., and is presented in alternating years with the Citizen Activist Award. Its Board of Judges include former United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, physicist and human rights activist Fang Lizhi, and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Shimon Peres, Mairead Maguire, Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel. In 2001 the award was given to Indian human rights activist Martin Macwan and Cambodian reconstructionist Bernard Krisher following its presentation in 1999 to ten peace activists in the Middle East.
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Date:Apr 11, 2003
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