2011 Winner: Geeta Rao Gupta

The Center for Global Development and Foreign Policy magazine honored Geeta Rao Gupta, former President of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), with the Commitment to Development “Ideas in Action” Award at an event on 7 December 2011.

The award, bestowed annually since 2003, honors an individual or organization for changing the attitudes, policies, and practices of the rich world toward the developing world.

“Geeta’s leadership at ICRW ensured a constant flow of research evidence about how to translate advocacy for women in the developing world into policy priorities and practical programs. Her own work on the link between women’s status and the AIDS pandemic is one example; her plenary address at the 2000 International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, put gender at the heart of the global fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” said CGD president Nancy Birdsall, co-chair of the selection committee.

“At least the development community now takes the role of women as fundamental to development. But it wouldn’t be that way without the kind of analytic work Geeta and her predecessors did at ICRW,” Birdsall added.

“We hope this award shines a spotlight on the ways that addressing gender inequality in areas such as property rights, secondary education for girls, maternal mortality, and violence against women not only helps women and girls but strengthens societies and boosts development," said selection committee co-chair Moisés Naím, an international columnist and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The award ceremony also featured remarks from Susan Glasser, editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine and a member of the selection committee, and Birdsall. Following the ceremony, Birdsall moderated a discussion between Geeta Rao Gupta; Mayra Buvinic, president of ICRW from 1978 to 1996; Sarah Kambou, the current president of ICRW since June 2010; and Susan Levine, a board member at one time of both CGD and ICRW.

Center for Global Development policy outreach assistant Chris Molitoris, Foreign Policy magazine editor in chief Susan Glasser, and CGD president Nancy Birdsall provide introductions and opening remarks.

Geeta Rao Gupta provides the keynote address to friends and family at the Center for Global Development.

Birdsall and panelists discuss the field of women and development during their respective tenures at ICRW, and talk about successes and future challenges.

Birdsall and Naím co-chair the award's distinguished selection panel which includes: Susan Glasser, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine; Eveline Herfkens, founder of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Campaign and former Dutch minister of development cooperation; Duncan Green, head of research for Oxfam Great Britain; and Isabel Munilla, recipient of the 2011 Commitment to Development Award on behalf of Publish What You Pay.

Rao Gupta grew up in India, where she studied at University of Delhi and Bangalore University. While pursuing advanced degrees in social psychology, she worked as a counselor at a drop-in center in New Delhi and lectured in the psychology departments of several universities. At the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, she worked with a team to develop the first women’s studies curriculum for graduate students in India.

Currently the Deputy Executive Director at UNICEF, she was previously a senior fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and served as the president of ICRW from 1996 to 2010.