University of Washington

Arundhati during internship at Grameen Bank

Arundhati (Pal) Sambataro (BA, 2006) attends a weekly meeting with one of Grameen Bank's borrowers' groups during her internship and microfinance training in 2008 with the Grameen Bank in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Alum brings event about women’s empowerment to Seattle May 20


By Kristina Bowman
May 12, 2014

A passion for women’s empowerment and an interest in microfinance coalesced for Jackson School of International Studies alum Arundhati (Pal) Sambataro (BA, international studies and chemistry, 2006) during an internship at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 2008.

Sambataro was pursuing a master’s in public policy from Pepperdine University. The Nobel-prize-winning institution, which was founded in 1976 by Professor Muhammad Yunus after Bangladesh gained its independence from Pakistan, has led the way in poverty alleviation through microfinance.

Arundhati with Professor Yunus

Sambataro with Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Laureate.

During her internship, Sambataro got to know Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke, a microfinance trainee. The two women realized they had similar ideas and could work together to create something tangible. The resulting website, Women’s WorldWide Web (W4), founded by Nefesh-Clarke, was the first online crowdfunding platform in Europe in 2010 specifically dedicated to girls' and women's empowerment. W4 aims to mobilize support for organizations around the world that are working at the grassroots level to empower women and girls.

Sambataro is co-founder and director of development for the organization and researches  organizations to verify their validity and alignment with W4’s mission, as well as facilitating partnerships in the field. “These organizations do great work, but many don’t have the means to get themselves noticed,” she said. And the larger organizations can benefit from the crowdfunding functionality and increased awareness that W4 provides, Sambataro added.

W4 is hosting its first U.S. event on May 20 at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center, in collaboration with the American Alpine Club and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. Sambataro, who recently moved to Seattle with her husband, said Seattleites have a passion for both global change and recreation – which come together during this event. “People can harness the energy from their sport to promote women and girls,” she said.
The event begins at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets at http://womenempowered.brownpapertickets.com/.

Another UW alum, Fitz Cahall (BA, Communication, 2002), who produces the popular “Dirtbag Diaries” podcast, will conduct on-stage interviews with Shannon Galpin, a mountain biker who founded Mountain2Mountain and Wasfia Nazreen, an alpinist who founded the Bangladesh on Seven Summits Foundation. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit both nonprofit organizations.

Arundhati with BRAC community health workers

Sambataro visits Bangladesh development organization BRAC, and examines feminine hygiene products, TB medicine, and anti-diarrheal and anti-malarial medications sold by trained participants of BRAC's Community Health Worker Program.

Mountain2Mountain’s Galpin developed a midwifery program in the Panjshir Valley to combat high infant mortality rates while providing culturally-sensitive economic opportunities for women in the region. In collaboration with tribal leaders in Kabula and Kandahar, she established schools for girls, and literacy programs for deaf children and women who had been condemned to prison for escaping abusive marriages and surviving rape. Galpin became the first person to mountain bike across the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan in 2010.

Nazreen founded the Bangladesh on Seven Summits Foundation to highlight the monumental progress of women in Bangladesh during its 40 years of independence. Nazreen has successfully summited five of the seven highest mountains on each continent.

Through her foundation, she aims to empower Bangladeshi girls and young women to break societal barriers and choose lifestyles that do not limit them to traditional gender roles.

W4’s Sambataro graduated from UW with a double major in international studies and chemistry. “I was going to be in medicine. I realized that, yes, medicine can have life-changing achievements, but I wanted to make a broader impact at the grassroots level." Sambataro said her passion for the work that W4 does developed during her time at the Jackson School. “The conversations I had inside and outside the classroom really helped me define what I wanted to do,” she said.