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2009 Dartmouth Honorary Degree Recipient María Otero (Doctor of Humane Letters)

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 04/23/09 • Media Contact: Roland Adams (603) 646-3661

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President & CEO, ACCION International

María Otero

María Otero is president & CEO of ACCION International, an organization that in 1973 pioneered making small loans to the self-employed poor in Recife, Brazil. ACCION is a leading global microfinance institution that seeks to open the financial systems in developing countries to reach the poor through technical assistance, equity investment, governance and financial services.

Otero joined ACCION in 1986 as director of its lending program in Honduras. In 1989 she opened the organization’s Washington, DC office and in 2000 was named president and CEO. She’s a leading voice on sustainable microfinance and has published extensively on the subject, including as co-editor of The New World of Microfinance, published by KuMarían Press. She speaks nationally and internationally on microfinance and the use of market mechanisms to fight poverty.

Otero also chairs the board of ACCION Investments in Microfinance, a $50 million investment company for microfinance. She serves on numerous charitable boards and non-profit groups, including Banco Sol in Bolivia, the Calvert Foundation, BRAC Holding of Bangladesh, the world’s largest non-governmental organization, and the Public Welfare Foundation. She was appointed to the board of the United States Institute of Peace by former President Bill Clinton, a position she held until 2008. In June 2006, Ms. Otero was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as one of 25 members to the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors. In 2007 she was named to the Advisory Councils of the Inter-American Foundation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Otero is also a founder of the Council of Microfinance Equity Funds (CMEF) which convenes 23 equity investment funds dedicated to microfinance to discuss their common challenges and interests.

Since 1997, Otero has been an adjunct professor at the John Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. In October 2005 she was profiled in Newsweek’s special report, “How Women Lead” as one of the 20 most influential women in the United States, and in November 2007 received Notre Dame University’s “Distinguished Service in Latin America Award” for her work in alleviating poverty in the region.

Otero received one master’s degree in literature from the University of Maryland and another in international relations from Johns Hopkins University. She was born and raised in La Paz, Bolivia, and resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband and three children.

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