It’s important to celebrate and salute the women who are changing the world around them, and encouraging and empowering other women to do the same.
From challenging gender stereotypes in Arab to teaching rural women to build their own solar panels, here are five inspiring initiatives created for women by women in the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship community.
1. Barefoot College: Empowerment through Technology
Based in India, Barefoot College International has demonstrated that education is not a barrier for needy communities to developing themselves. This college disseminates the most sophisticated technologies to both men and women who can merely read and write and teaches them to become professionally skillful.
The CEO and Director of the college, Meagan Fallone, is committed to leveraging the initiative that involves implementing simple, radical and futuristic ideas to sustainable development so that the rural poor can be respected and own their projects, whether building water pump or solar panels. Barefoot college aims at empowering them to meet their community’s needs and addressing the obstacles of economic inequality, human rights, and climate change on a global scale.
“Inequality is not about who has more; instead, it is about my ability to reach my aspirations regardless, with the same lack of resistance along the way,” Fallone says.
2. Study Hall Educational Foundation: Empowerment through Education
Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF) offers quality education to underprivileged girls and youth across urban and rural India. SHEF provides teacher training, workshops, educational centres, and vocational training using feminist-based pedagogy, gender-sensitization techniques, and adolescent-empowerment discussions on social issues in the classrooms. It aims to empower girls to have equal participation in society.
“Education empowers women as it teaches them the most vital lessons that they are equal to this society and have the right to live and thrive as per their choice,” believes Dr. Urvashi Sahni, Founding President at SHEF. “Education not only gives girls academic skills but also teaches them that they have the right to use these skills for themselves. It is one of the most crucial lessons that empowered me and helped me fight discrimination, and it keeps me motivated to do the work I do today.”
3. NISAA Radio: Empowering Women’s Voices
Maysoun Odeh Gangat, a Palestinian social entrepreneur, realized if media can reinforce gender stereotypes, her radio station NISAA can also fight it. NISAA is being used as a debate taboo tool, typically challenging roles assigned to women, and presenting women as competent and assertive actors in society, hence reshaping power relations. NISAA means ‘women’ in Arabic which has three radio frequencies across Palestine, and a listenership of nearly 340,000 people.
It presents Western and Arabic music, interspersed with morning, evening, and weekend talk shows. It is designed to attract people, especially women, as NISAA addresses gender-related issues.
“Radio NISAA empowers women by providing a platform that entertains with music, informs with news and inspires with success stories. Most importantly, it allows them to define their success by helping each other, standing together, and never giving up even if all odds stand in their way, elaborates Maysoun Odeh.
4. The Clothing Bank: Empowerment to Run their Own Business
Tracey Chambers created The Clothing Bank in South Africa to lift women out of poverty and empower them. The initiative partners with South Africa’s retailer companies that donate their extra stock to the Bank. Then the Bank sells this inventory at maximum discounted prices to women who initiate their small businesses.
The Clothing Bank also organises training programs to build confidence, a sense of community, and skills that women need to master. Addressing vital areas such as physical, mental, and social well-being, the organisation follows a ‘head-heart-hands’ approach.
“Our program works in a profound holistic way with women to unlock human potential,” states Tracey Chambers. “We concentrate on women’s development by giving them the knowledge to be a great businesswoman, the opportunity to practice business skills, and the growing space to believe in them, heal past traumas, and become role models within their community.”
5. Horn of Africa Development Initiative: Empowerment to Drive the Change
Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan, the first woman from Marsabit to hold a law degree, declined job offers in Nairobi to return to her homeland to deliver legal representation to people who were unable to afford it. She founded the Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI) in Kenya to empower girls and women to an active voice in their communities.
The change starts with the belief that peaceful and resilient communities can be made only when the most vulnerable citizens like women, youth, and children are empowered. They represent power structures as their capabilities are fully developed when they are wholly engaged throughout the process. HODI offers a safe space for adolescent girls to learn from each other on sensitive topics such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and sexual abuse. Graduating from this program, these women inspire other girls or women within their communities and continue educating future generations.