Who says superheroes don’t exist? They do and they are people like us who put in extraordinary efforts to make a difference in the world.They are the leaders of today and a hope for tomorrow. Little by little, they make the world a better place and inspire others to do that same. Let’s take a look at few women who are making an impact and bringing about a positive change in many lives across the world.
1. Linda Rottenberg
The CEO and co-founder of Endeavor, a non-profit organisation that pioneered high impact entrepreneurship which mentors and invests in growing investments all over the world (25 countries by 2015), the American businesswoman has been honoured by awards too many to mention in a multi-post. The “entrepreneur whisperer” is known for her infectious energy and amazing network that has helped provide millions of jobs. Author of the New York Times best-selling book, Crazy Is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags, an inspirational and passionate anecdotal guide for entrepreneurs, Rottenberg also serves on the board of Zayo Group, a global provider of bandwidth infrastructure (NYSE: ZAYO) and on the entrepreneurship steering committee of the World Economic Forum. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Young Presidents Organization (YPO).
Quote – “If no one is calling you “crazy,” you’re probably not thinking big enough.”
2. Jane Chen
During her MBA at Stanford, Jane Chen was involved in a class project that tried to develop a cost-effective infant incubator to help prevent the millions of infant deaths that occur annually all over the world in rural areas. In 2008, she co-founded Embrace to bring their project to life. Embrace has helped over 150,000 babies so far. The affordable infant warmer has been distributed in different countries, and Embrace’s hybrid structure allows it to be donated through NGOs and governments to the neediest parts of the world. Chen’s concern with social and health sectors goes back a long way when shespent several years as the Program Director of a startup HIV/AIDS nonprofit in China (Chi Heng Foundation), and worked for the Clinton Foundation’s HIV/AIDS Initiative in Tanzania. Chen has been recognized by Forbes, her alma maters (Pomona College and Stanford) and World economic Forum among others.
Quote – “I believe we can truly bring technology to the masses. And we can save millions of lives”.
3. Jacqueline Novogratz
The American author/social entrepreneur is the co-founder of Acumen, a non-profit global venture capital fund that invests in and builds financially sustainable organizations to deliver affordable goods and services in order to improve the lives of the poor. With an investment of over $90 million in more than 80 businesses in regions varying from Kenya to India and Pakistan, Acumen has truly helped “changed the way the world tackles poverty”.
Novogratz is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, inspired by the recognition of her work in Kenya. Novogratz has several received awards and fellowships including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 2010, Wofford College’s Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind in Spartanburg, SC, along with an honorary doctorate by the college, 2010, Ernst & Young Metro New York Entrepreneur of the Year and Honorary Doctor of Science degree, University of Notre Dame.
Quote – “You should focus on being more interested than interesting.”
4. Ela Bhatt
Dr Bhatt is an Indian cooperative organiser and civil rights activist. She founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) in 1972. SEWA is a trade union for self-employed women who earn their living through small businesses or labour. SEWA is supported by the World Bank which sees it as a great model. Originated in Gujarat, it is now present in 13 states of India, including Kashmir with a total membership of close to two crores. The organisation has also helped provide food security and childcare services in certain states. The Shri Mahila Sewa Sahakari Bank, or SEWA bank was created to help self-employed women gain access to financial resources and assists its illiterate members. SEWA has several sister organisations varying from its academy to research to housing. The lawyer activist has been the recipient of several awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Padma Bhushan(1986).
Quote – “It is the women who are the leaders in change and without their participation poverty can never be removed.”
5. Shaheen Mistri
A founder of the Akanksha Foundation, an Indian educational initiative in Mumbai and Pune, and the founder and CEO of Teach For India since 2008, Mistri is an Indian social activist and educator. The Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit organisation working primarily in education has helped more than 5000 students of low-income communities.
As a young college student Shaheen was deeply impacted by her visit to the Mumbai slums and this led her to start Akanksha at the age of 20 with only 15 students. Teach for India has become the greatest education marvel and that is in 7 cities – Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru today. We have a total of approximately 1200 Fellows and 1100 Alumni working towards eliminating educational inequity. Mistri has also co-authored the non-fiction book Redrawing India: The Teach For India Story, which tells the inspiring story of the powerful movement that aimed at of uniting a socially-driven educated youth with all the children in need of education in India.
Quote – “A good education is one that addresses the needs of the child and the community they live in while still providing a strong set of values that equips them to make better and informed decisions for themselves and their families.”
6. Grace Garey
The co-founder of Watsi, a global health funding nonprofit portal, Garey started Watsi while working at Kiva, a micro-finance startup. The unique platform ensures that 100% of your donation goes directly to the patient you choose to fund. Medical care is one of the most important and expensive resources in low-income areas this day and age and the innovative website portal Watsi connects donors and people in need with an accessible ease. Since its launch in 2012 Watsi has raised more than $5 million and funded over 5000 patients. The young American studied and worked in Ghana right after her graduation where she met several wonderful people who inspired her to solve real problems of the world.
Quote – “Don’t be afraid to start small. The world is full of huge problems. But I’d argue that it’s better to zoom in and focus on designing for the individual”.
7. Ingrid Munro
The Swedish advocate for the poor, founded Jamii Bora, a micro-finance organisation in Kenya. What started as a institution with 50 homeless women in Nairobi is now the largest of its kind in Kenya. Now grown to 300,000 families, Jamii Bora, meaning “good families” has grown far more than a handful of street beggars proving that poverty does not only need big governmental changes. Munro has been featured in thedocumentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide in 2012.
Quote – “The difference between women and men is that the women have to toil every day because they have to make sure their kids have something to eat every day, while the men are dreaming about a big business they are not ready for.”
8. Roshaneh Zafar
The founder and managing director of Kashf Foundation, the first specialised micro-finance programme in Pakistan that specifically targets women from low income communities, Zafar is also the founding member of the Pakistan Microfinance Network and sits on the board of several NGOs and networks, including Women’s World Banking, Pakistan Microfinance Network and Kaarvan Crafts. The Kashf Foundation also helps women entrepreneurs by honing their skills and providing them with financial education, training and loans. The organisation has been awarded the Microfinance Excellence Award by the Grameen Foundation-USA for its groundbreaking innovations in the field of microfinance in Pakistan, while in 2005 it won the AGFUND International Prize for Microcredit 2005 out of 98 countries. Zafar were also awarded the Skoll Award for Social and the OneWoman Initiative Award by the US State Department.
Quote – “On the social side, women are more empowered. Their self-esteem goes up when they are more empowered.”
9. Lindsay Stradley
Co-founder of Sanergy, an organisation that makes hygienic sanitation accessible to women across African slums. For millions of women in urban slums getting access to a clean toilet can mean risking sexual assault and other violence every day. As a young student at Yale she focussed on issues of poverty and worked with an organisation that trained low-income women to become certified preschool school teachers. Stradley inspired by Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America also worked as part of that organisation where she built a school in her third year when Katrina Hurricane struck New Orleans and destroyed the old school.
After learning about the global sanitation crisis, co-founded Stradley where they design low cost toilet units that not only provide accessible hygienic sanitation services but also helps women make profit by charging for usage. With more than 250 toilets, Sanergy serves more than 15000 people every day.
Quote – “I’ve been inspired by the women and female entrepreneurs who are (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) getting shit done.”
10. Angelica Fuentes
CEO and managing shareholder of the global nutrition company Omnilife, Fuentes also founded and leads Angelissma, a beauty and cosmetics brand that recruits women entrepreneurs and provides them financial independence. One of the most powerful people in Latin America, Fuentes founded the Angélica Fuentes Foundation in 2014 to achieve gender equality and encourage women empowerment.
Fuentes inspiration came as early as when she was 11 when she worked at a gas station in Mexico where she experienced gender discrimination. Determined to increase gender awareness in a highly patriarchal world, Fuentes aims at reducing the gender gap in the business world and is also a founding member of Americas Business Council Foundation.
Quote – “Girls everywhere are strong, they are capable and they will determine our future.”