Karen Sugar

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Karen Sugar is the Founder and Director of Women’s Global Empowerment Fund. Currently based in Denver and Los Angeles, Sugar and her mission extend internationally, providing tools and programs creating economic, social and political empowerment to women and families. The mission of WGEF stems from a life-long commitment to human rights and social justice along with her interest in microfinance and its potential for transformation, which she studied in depth, along with gender and development, while earning her Master’s degree from the University of Colorado in 2008.

Her Master’s thesis was titled The Power and Possibility of Microfinance where she examined the outcomes of pairing microfinance with social programming. Supporting this idea became the foundation of developing her own model called Credit Plus, and in 2007 she launched Women’s Global Empowerment Fund. She drew from her previous work experience with homeless women and families, and as a community organizer for reproductive health care to unite her passion and education to evoke global change. This change is undeniable as tens of thousands of women and families have utilized the unique programs WGEF offers; including critical educational programming, and leadership development in post conflict northern Uganda and Haiti.  She frequently travels to Gulu, Uganda, and Haiti to meet and work with the staff, clients and community members.

Sugar’s work has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, WGEF was recognized as a “Great Nonprofit” for the 6th year in a row on GreatNonprofits. In 2012 Pope Benedict XVI was present for WGEF’s recognition in Milan, Italy when they received The International WorkLife Balance Award. In 2013, Sugar received the University of Colorado Alumni Recognition Award, for her career excellence and community service. In 2015, she was awarded the Lifetime Leader Award by the Foundation of Global Scholars.Her appearance on Ugandan Broadcast Company is frequent, featuring her ongoing work in Gulu. She and her organization also capture the attention of media, including Marie Claire magazine,  Refinery 29, Huffington Post,The Denver Business Journal, Westword and The Denver Post.

Most recently, WGEF and Karen have partnered with Urban Decay and the Ultraviolet Edge, their initiative to empower women throughout the world. March, 2017, WGEF and Sugar’s work was featured in Marie Claire magazine highlighting a trip to Gulu, Uganda, which included Urban Decay and Marie Claire staff. Additionally, Sugar’s article “Making the Connections” was published in the April 2015 issue of SGI quarterly, and in 2016 the Philanthropy Journal, recognizing her key insights and contributions to the global initiatives of peace, education, and empowerment.

Sugar has dedicated her life to helping solve social justice issues, strongly emphasizing her dedication to equality and human rights. Although her focus has tended to women’s issues, she is a firm believer in defending the rights of all human beings. In addition to her work with her nonprofit, she shares her experience lecturing at Universities and Colleges around the country, speaking about women’s empowerment, social entrepreneurship, microfinance, and development.  In Sugar’s words, “I have worked with, and studied poverty issues almost all of my adult life, but really began to focus on the issues around global poverty, the dire consequences of injustice in the Global South, and how it is connected and interrelated to the western world. The continued marginalization and oppression of women and families around the globe is the issue which inspired me to act, and through economic and social programs and leadership development, I found an innovative vehicle in which to make a difference.”





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