Karen Sugar, CEO/Executive Director
Start Date: 2001
Biography: Karen Sugar
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 low-interest loan to a woman, you see the entire family potentially lifted out of extreme poverty," she said. "Small loans in the hands of entrepreneurial women can transform a family, a village, maybe even a whole country." 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, a lack of adequate health care and the challenge of raising healthy children."
Sugar and her organization have been featured on CBS4 Denver, and NBC affiliate, KUSA Channel 9. Sugar and WGEF was chosen by a local Denver magazine, 5280, as Top Humanitarian, 2009, 2010, 2012; and her work was featured in the University of Colorado Alumni Magazine, the Denver Post, Denver Business Journal and was recently recognized by the Altis program and the Catholic University of Milan, receiving the International WorkLife Balance Award in 2012 and this year received the University of Colorado Alumni Leadership Award. Sugar and WGEF is a 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 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 microfinance and leadership development I have found an innovative vehicle in which to make a 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 to Gulu frequently to work in the field with staff and clients. She is the author of the book, Revolution: one woman at a time. Sugar is a single mother of two lovely young women.
Advisory Board / Advisory Council