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Maria Teresa Leal, Vital Voices network member and entrepreneur from Brazil, was invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting, September 22-25, 2009 in New York. Maria Teresa, known by all as TetĢ», founded the Rocinha Craftwork and Seamstress Cooperative (Coopa-Roca) nearly 30 years ago. Coopa-Roca currently employs over 100 female artisans in Rocinha, the largest shantytown of Rio de Janeiro. TetĢ» describes her participation in CGI as a “…spectacular experience and fabulous networking opportunity. It was a big surprise and honor to be invited on stage with President Clinton!”

In addition to being an instrumental networking opportunity, the CGI Annual Meeting serves as a place for members to develop commitments that fit their core business and philanthropic goals. These Commitments to Action are specific and measurable initiatives focusing on diverse concerns undertaken by CGI members. After making a commitment, members report to CGI on progress made over time.

Following CGI, TetĢ» has returned to Rio de Janeiro with new connections and a strengthened network to fulfill Coopa-Roca’s CGI commitment. As part of this commitment, TetĢ» hopes to further develop Coopa-Roca’s business model and expand its market presence. She has already begun working with local partners and the women artisans of Coopa-Roca to create and launch a new fashion line and design products under the new Coopa-Roca label. In the next year, this line will be showcased at national and international fashion shows giving a new audience of buyers and retailers access to Coopa-Roca’s unique highly-skilled artisan designs. This increased market presence and visibility will allow for the creation of a greater number of employment opportunities for female artisans in Rocinha. This will allow Coopa-Roca to have a more significant social impact. By improving the livelihoods of the artisans they work with they can improve their living conditions and that of their families and others in their community. Vital Voices looks forward to continuing to work with TetĢ» and the women of Coopa-Roca as they pursue these goals.