ACCION International President and CEO, Maria Otero, was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) in recognition of her contribution to sustainable development in the global microfinance sector.
First joining ACCION in 1986 as the Honduras lending program director, Maria Otero has dedicated her career to sustainable development. Ms. Otero was appointed as President and CEO of ACCION in 2000, and also chairs ACCION Investments, managing USD 20 million to be used in global microfinance institution investments. She also serves on the boards of directors of Latin microfinance institutions Mibanco of Peru, BancoSol of Bolivia, and Compartamos of Mexico, the Calvert Foundation, BRAC Holding of Bangladesh, and the Clinton Global Initiative. She has previously served as advisor to the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).
Maria Otero was born in La Paz, Bolivia, and moved to the United States at the age of 12. She received a master’s degree in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where she has been an adjunct professor since 1997, co-teaching a course on microfinance.
Ms. Otero has published several articles on microfinance and co-authored The New World of Microfinance: Building Healthy Financial Institutions for the Poor, with Elizabeth Rhyne, published by Kumarian Press.
Founded in 1961, ACCION International is a private, nonprofit microfinance institution that specializes in micro-enterprise loans, business training, and other financial services. Originally a student-run volunteer effort in Carcas, Venezuela to alleviate poverty, ACCION International currently operates in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the United States through partner networks, reaching over 3 million clients in 25 countries.
Since 1986, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor has been presented annually by the National Ethnic Coalition (NECO) to American citizens of diverse origins in recognition of individuals who have made social contributions on the local, national and global level. Past recipients include six former presidents of the United States, Nobel Prize winners, athletes, industry leaders, artists, and researchers.
The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is officially recognized by the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Medal recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.
The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) was established in 1984 by William Denis Fugazy to recognize the diversity of United States citizens.
By Melissa Duscha
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