Connie Duckworth: An Agent for Peace and Change

(PR Release from International Women Associates-IWA)

Well before recent sensational news coverage of women’s rights struggles overseas,in areas like Tahir Square where ten thousand Egyptian women urged the military to stop the violent practice of stripping and dragging women protestors into the streets, Connie K. Duckworth has been a change agent for peace and women’s economic empowerment in the U.S. and abroad.

If “women helping women create change” was the maxim for women in the Middle East in 2011, the global message that Ms. Duckworth brings to women in 2012 is keep the energy alive. Her message of peace and progress through innovation and cultural understanding echoes the mission of International Women’s Associates (IWA). IWA is a Chicago-based forum connecting women with diverse international backgrounds who advocate for universal human rights, especially those of women and girls. IWA will honor Connie Duckworth on March 1st, 2012 with its annual Woman Extraordinaire Award.

Since 1996, IWA has recognized women leaders like Ms. Duckworth for both their extraordinary career success and their international human rights efforts. Joining impressive recent recipients like Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and Marjorie Benton, Ms. Duckworth is recognized for more than her corporate success as the first female sales and trading partner in Goldman Sachs’ history. It is her commitment to helping other women across other industries that stands out, as illustrated in her book, The Old Girls Network: Insider Advice for Women Building Businesses in a Man’s World. And her dedication to women in the developing world is an important extension of that commitment in a world grown increasingly small.

Next to her four children, Ms. Duckworth acknowledges that her greatest satisfaction comes from improving the lives of thousands of women abroad. In 2004, Ms. Duckworth founded ARZU STUDIO HOPE (ARZU means “hope” in Dari), a not-for-profit organization employing women weavers in Afghanistan. Its unique, groundbreaking business model generates broad-based community benefits. Destitute, highly skilled Afghan women are given fair-labor employment, as well as access to education and healthcare for their families in remote rural provinces, that otherwise lack necessary resources. Instead of shareholders or investors, the women benefit directly from their success.

ARZU has captured the broader attention of the business world and leaders in academia. In June 2011, Ms. Duckworth received the prestigious Dean’s Medal from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, joining past recipients that include two Nobel Prize winners and five presidents of countries. The award recognizes outstanding leadership in wealth creation and the promotion of a peaceful, prosperous world. Senior government leaders have also applauded this model of sustainable grassroots economic activity in conflict-ridden countries, sending Ms. Duckworth several times as a government envoy with the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, a partnership of the U.S. State Department. With the drawdown of U.S. troops scheduled for the end of 2012 in Afghanistan, ARZU’s vision provides a model path to a peaceful, economic-based solution in this war torn region.

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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