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Shriver Joined by 14,000 For The Annual 2007 Women's Conference

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By Lea Michelle Cash

If you asked me today, to tell you the most amazing person with an impressive story about their philantophic spirit, I would tell you the story of Oseola McCarty.  She was the elderly Black washing woman with a sixth grade education who donated her life's saving of $250,000 from washing White professional's clothing.  I cherished the day that I met her and I am humbled by the time that I spent with her before she died in Sept. 1999. 

After that, I'd tell you about a man named Dr. Muhammad Yunus. I learned of him in my communication studies class and I longed to meet the Nobel Peace Prize winner. My wish recently came true.  The worldclass roster of speakers at this year's California Governor and First Lady's Women Conference in Long Beach at the Long Beach Convention Center "Remarkable Lives. Remarkable Legacies. What's Yours? to name a few, of the 80 extraordinary individuals included: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, First Lady of Mexico Margarita Zavala, Diane von Furstenberg, Jamie Lee Cutis, Raven Symone, Joan Baez, Elizabeth Edwards, Michele Obama, Loretta Claborne,  Ed Begley, Jr. Vanessa Williams, Deborah Roberts, Martha Beck and Dr. Muhammad Yunus.   Sixty of the 80 individuals featured were dynamic world leaders.

This year's conference was designed and shaped to encourage women to think about their own legacies, assisting women to leave the conference with tools, inspiration and motivation to look inside themselves, identify the legacies they want to leave, and commit to creating them.  "We have taken this year's theme to heart and want to ensure that the conference leaves its own positive, lasting legacy on each participant and the community," said Erin Stein, Executive Producer of the Women's Conference. "The conference has truly grown from an inspirational day for thousands of women into a worldwide community that can unite us each and every day of the year."   

My dream of meeting Dr. Muhammad Yunus became a reality and I was inspired tremendously. Dr. Yunus the anti poverty and banking pioneer, in 1983, founded the Grameen Bank, which focused on helping women in his native Bangladesh, escape from poverty through micro-lending. His first loan, to a poor Jobra woman consists of $27.00 dollars from his own pocket. Then he made 42 more $27.00 loans to women in the village.  This act of kindness spearheaded the creation of an institution to lend to those women who had nothing. The results of his efforts are revolutionary, translating a vision into practical action toward the empowerment of poor women.  Along with being awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Yumus has been awarded 26 honorary doctorate degrees from around the world. To date over the last two decades Grameen Bank has loaned out over 6.5 million dollars to the poorest of the poor while maintaining according to news reports a repayment rate consistently about 98%.  Its been stated that Dr. Yumus inspired a global micro-credit movement reaching out to millions of poor women from South Africa to inner city Chicago.  Dr. Yumus stated, "The average loan is $150.00 dollars.  He continued, "Money going to poor women brings much more benefits to their families. So I focused on women to bring about social and economical change to their villages."

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