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Nigerien MicroFinance Project Receives Visibility at International Conference in Copenhagen

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Haoua Diatta
David Harvey, president and CEO or ProLiteracy, with Haoua Diatta; Diatta with teachers in Niger; the sign for MICA's headquarters

Founder of Micro-Credit Africa Represents ProLiteracy at International Conference

Haoua Diatta, wife of the former Ambassador of Niger to the United States, China, and Ethiopia, knows quite a bit about the important role women play in economic development. As founder and president of Micro-Credit in Africa (MICA), Diatta has been working since 2003 with ProLiteracy to alleviate poverty in her home country through educating and empowering women. Her work is seemingly endless—nearly 6 million women in Niger live on less than one dollar a day; of those 6 million, only about 2 million can read and write.

Yet Diatta is unwavering in her mission, and she has seen enough success to remain passionate about making change. One recent accomplishment is the flagship Oxcart Project, which is as simple as it sounds. Through donations of about $280 U.S., the project loans village women an ox and a cart, which the women then rent to villagers who are in need of transportation for everything from emergency care to market shopping.

"With the rental revenues, the women eventually pay back the loan and own the oxcart," explains Diatta. "The oxcart project allows women to gain economic empowerment, and that in turn empowers the entire village."

Diatta's experience with this project, and with many others, made her the ideal ProLiteracy representative at the recent Role of Women in Global Security conference held in Copenhagen on October 29-30, 2010. In addition to the Oxcart Project, Diatta oversees projects that provide more than 2,700 women opportunities to engage in commercial ventures through women's literacy and micro enterprise programs as well as leadership workshops, AIDS education, job skill training, first aid training, and computer training.

Co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Denmark and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the conference highlighted the importance of women in peace and security. Notable keynote speakers included Hillary Rodham Clinton, United States Secretary of State (via webcast); Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO; and Melanne Verveer, United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues. The conference included three tracks: Women in Active Conflict/Peacekeeping Operations, Women in Post-Conflict Reconciliation and Reintegration, and Women in Economic Development.

"I was so pleased to be able to share the work being done by MICA," says Diatta. "I exchanged ideas with other women, and as a group, we discussed how we can make change. It was a great opportunity to understand other issues."

Conference participants also developed recommendations for incorporating best practices, potentially for compilation in a post-conference report. Moreover, the conference provided the opportunity for establishing new networks to advance the utilization of women as active agents in shaping global security policy.

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