In Her Own Words: Anne Ralte on Her Work to Inspire and Empower Women across the World
Anne Ralte recently joined IRD as director of Monitoring and Evaluation after 15 years working at USAID. Her work continues her lifelong commitment to her traditional values, women's empowerment, and gender equality.
I was born in Mizoram (land of the Mizo people), a remote, mountainous part of northeastern India, with our own language and culture. During my early childhood in the 1950s, we were a marginalized tribal group. Most families, like mine, made a living by farming. We lived in simple one-room wooden houses built on stilts along the hill slopes – with no running water or electricity. Our everyday life centered on work in our family rice farm.
When I was 5, my father died, and my mother struggled to take care of the farm and the small home bakery my father had started. Although illiterate, she intuitively knew that for us to do better in life, we would have to be placed in an English-speaking boarding school in Calcutta.
This is how I ended up in a small school that served the poor with Title II food aid and a children sponsorship program. I completed school in the first division, and furthered my education in the United States. Without the food aid, the school could not have fed me and other disadvantaged children, most of us without parents or a stable home. Nourishment led to scholastic achievements, which led to opportunities and a career in international development.
My life experiences prepared me well for hardships along the way, and, in particular, in being comfortable in taking risks to pioneer new concepts or developing new partnerships. A lesson from my mother is that one courageous person can make a huge difference – to change a community, an entire way of life, and the future. As I embraced my new life in United States, I made a conscious decision early on to maintain a balance of values from my origins, including kindness and self-sacrifice for the service of others — a traditional core value of the Mizos — also shared by my American parents who sacrificed to support me.
I recently joined IRD after 15 years at USAID. My work at USAID and IRD brings me full circle to my humble beginnings, and not a single day passes without me thinking how fortunate I am. A photograph by my husband, Joe Connors, hangs in my IRD office to remind me of my humble beginning – it shows three Mizo women dressed in simple puan (sarong) carrying huge loads of firewood used for cooking. That used to be me.
I am fortunate to be in a line of work that connects to my traditional values and inspires me to help IRD to transform more lives. IRD is committed to empowering women and promoting gender equality, helping mothers around the world improve their incomes, improve their health, and support the education of their girls so that they too can enjoy the opportunities I've had.