December 2016

By Karen A. Tramontano with Jeremiah J. Baronberg

“I appreciate the Trustees of the Global Fairness Award for recognizing a lifetime devoted to development...Let 2017 be a year of continued fight for fairness for the most vulnerable among us, and those left behind in this world.”
-Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, accepting the 2016 Fairness Award.

Globalization brings opportunity, but not for all.

So how can we make our global economy work better for everyone?

That was the question I struggled with after leaving the Clinton White House in 2000.

After much reflection and advice from stakeholders and with support from incredible partners, we were able to found a nonprofit organization—the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI)—that has made addressing this challenge our core mission. Since 2002, our vision at GFI has been to promote a more equitable, sustainable approach to economic development through programs to reduce poverty, enfranchise informal communities, and advance human rights and livelihoods.

Along the way, GFI—led by its talented and devoted staff—has challenged many preconceived notions, questioned basic ideologies and practices, and has put new ideas on the table. GFI’s basic premise is that economic globalization can and should work to improve the lives of impoverished populations around the world, creating jobs and economic opportunities. We focus in the economy, working primarily in the informal sector, and are committed to improving people’s livelihoods, globally. Our international projects hinge on forging critical relationships between stakeholders and facilitating dialogue where such interaction once may have seemed impossible.

Over the last 15 years, GFI has grown to become an organization that has built a track record of success through innovative programs that reduce poverty, enfranchise informal communities, and advance human rights and livelihoods.

In 2010, GFI hosted its first Fairness Award ceremony in Washington, DC (which was held at the Kennedy Center and where Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton presented Ela Bhatt with the first award) to honor exceptional leaders whose work and life have opened opportunity and access to poor and marginalized communities. By honoring these outstanding individuals, GFI hopes to inspire a new generation of leaders to dedicate themselves to economic justice, fairness, and equality.

Honorees are selected from among both grass-tops leaders who have enabled and supported marginalized communities and grassroots leaders who have led communities in building a stronger voice and finding a place in our global community. Together, these honorees represent the power of bringing together top-down opportunity and bottom-up leadership to improve the lives of working families around the globe.

At this year’s 2016 Fairness Award, hosted at the historic Howard Theater (see this article on its storied history) in Washington, DC, GFI honored three outstanding individuals whom I have come to know for their dedication, commitment, and deep humanity:

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, who leads the 1.6 million member teachers union, including spearheading its international work to combat child labor and advocate for better schools around the world.

Dr. Cristina Liamzon, Coordinator of the Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program (LSE), who leads its efforts to build a global community of empowered Filipino migrant workers through leadership and entrepreneurship training.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who as former Nigerian minister of finance helped rid her native country of $30 billion of debt and now as chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) is fighting to save lives by making immunizations available to millions of children around the world.

GFI thanks its many friends and supporters and salutes the 2016 honorees in their ongoing quest to make our world a better -- and fairer -- place for all.


About the Fairness Award

The Fairness Award was founded on the mission and values the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI), which has worked with local partners and communities throughout the world to advance fair wages, create equitable access to markets, secure social protections, and tackle public policy barriers to generate opportunity for the working to end the cycle of poverty and exploitation. This vision of enabling “local solutions for a global economy” is central to the selection and recognition of Fairness Award honorees whom we celebrate for their exemplary leadership and example. Proceeds from the Fairness Award go directly to support GFI’s collaborative and innovative programs that change lives and the way charitable work is done by giving nations and local people ownership of their success.

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