By Carlos Fernandez
LatinaLista — Carlos Fernandez is the CEO of the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI), a partnership between the William J. Clinton Foundation and a host of private sector, governments and local communities working together to increase economic development in areas where there is widespread poverty.
The initiative was established in June 2007 by former President Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra. It focuses on alleviating poverty in Latin America by helping create jobs and strengthening support for local health and education initiatives that, in turn, help strengthen the local economy.
Going from the idea stage to reality, Mr. Fernandez oversees a range of programs that are taking off in countries all over Latin America. Each program either targets the health and education of children or supporting the creation of small businesses by people who never would have had the opportunity.
In a special “Guest Voz,” Mr. Fernandez explains the important work being done by CGSGI and the difference it’s already made in the lives of our neighbors to the south of the United States.
Today, many people around the world are giving back – and giving to each other. More than ever, we know the communities and economies of our planet are connected by a thousand threads of language, culture, hopes, and ideas – but not by equal access to education, health, or opportunity.
Responding to this challenge, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra are working together to reverse the rising rates of inequality and the yawning gap between rich and the poor. Recently, they established the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI) to create real improvements in the lives of the most disadvantaged in Latin America – and beyond – and to transform the way that businesses do business in the developing world.
We are not doing this by giving away money; we instead are showing new ways for businesses to both do well and do good. By using the resources of the private sector to reduce obstacles in peoples’ lives and provide more tools for people to succeed, we are making progress. And by working with local communities, leaders, non-governmental organizations, governments, and businesses, we are hopeful these gains will be sustained.
Maritza Parra CÃ³rdoba of Colombia is one of our partners. Thirteen years ago, she and a small group of women in the Department of ChocÃ³ organized themselves into La Red de Mujeres para el Desarrollo, and began to grow, process, and sell organic spices, such as basil, cilantro, ginger and turmeric.
CGSGI is providing them with marketing and management assistance, and today, their business is thriving and growing with each passing year. Maritza’s success is continuing to help shape the community around her by creating and retaining jobs and opportunities. And although Maritza was unable to afford to go to college, she is able to provide that opportunity to her children — she has sent two of her daughters to university to study business administration and environmental engineering in QuibdÃ³.
CGSGI staff is working with other partners throughout Colombia to help develop their practical skills and open their access to jobs and higher wages. In the coastal area of Bahia Cupica, for example, we are helping 150 fishermen to strengthen their cooperative and to grow their business, so they can raise their community’s standard of living and well-being.
In Peru, we are partnering to reduce chronic child malnutrition in the Cajamarca region, where undernourishment is not associated with scarcity of food but rather with poor nutrition and a lack of education. We are helping to connect families with the support and knowledge needed to provide clean, healthy homes and nutritious meals to their children, and we are tracking their children’s weight, height, and vaccination status to measure their progress.
Besides nutrition, we also are working on the issue of blindness: two years ago, 83,000 cases of cataracts were reported in Peru, and CGSGI is providing resources to enable 50,000 cataract surgeries over the next three years.
I am proud of the work of CGSGI in its short history in Colombia and Peru, and I am eager to move forward and onward to the other challenges on which we can work together to make a difference in the lives of others.