Women social entrepreneurship in India: According to a report by British council– in the state of social enterprise in Bangladesh, Ghana, India and Pakistan – 24% of the social enterprises are led by women, higher than the 8.9% female-led firms in mainstream business/ private sector firms. These women social reformers have either experienced biases in their lives or know the power of privilege that comes in the form of good education, health and other opportunities that can change a woman’s life. Today several women have chosen the path of social entrepreneurship leaving behind high paying careers, to fulfill a pressing desire to bring change in the society.
Overcoming barriers: The women social entrepreneurs represent the new India that is willing to take risks and make sacrifices. Some have little or no background in their chosen fields. Yet they have not only managed to overcome barriers but also set an example for others. Thanks to govt’s support through initiatives like Startup India there is a strong ecosystem for them to thrive. Seeing their passion and drive national and international development institutions are ready to invest in their ventures. These social entrepreneurs are now seen as a solution to India’s pertinent and complex problems of socio-economic divide.
Platforms recognizing the effort and bridging the gap: Several prestigious impact platforms are recognizing the efforts of social entrepreneurs and giving them a stage to showcase their work, learn from their peers and inspire others. One such platform is the prestigious Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) India award – a joint partnership between the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation and the Schwab Foundation of Social Entrepreneurship (the Schwab Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, is a leading global platform that accelerates outstanding models of social innovation). For over a decade now SEOY India has recognized social entrepreneurs every year in various fields through a stringent selection process. In the last one decade the platform has seen more than 1500 social innovation applications out of which about 500 of them have been from women applicants. This year, out of over 120 applications, over 30 are from women social entrepreneurs. Out of 9 winners in the last decade of the SEOY India Award, 5 have been women social entrepreneurs!
Inspiring stories of change:
Chetna Gala Sinha founded the Mann Deshi Foundation in Mhaswad in 1996, a drought-stricken area of Maharashtra, with the aim of economically and socially empowering rural women. In 1997, she set up the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank – India’s first bank for and by rural women. Today, the Mann Deshi Bank has 100,000 account holders, has loaned over $50 million and regularly creates new financial products to support the needs of female micro-entrepreneurs. Mann Deshi runs Business Schools, a Community Radio and a Chambers of Commerce for rural women micro entrepreneurs. Chetna has served as a Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos (2018), Switzerland. Chetna won the SEOY India Award in 2013.
Dr Urvashi Sahni has been working for the rights of children and women for over three decades now. She founded Suraksha, a women rights organisation, in 1983 in Uttar Pradesh, India. She is the founding president and CEO of the Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF), under which she has established three K-12 schools including Prerna Girls School, providing affordable high quality rights-based education to over 1000 girls from urban slums. She is a leading expert in school governance, curriculum reform and teacher training with a special focus on girls’ education and the use of technology in education. Dr Urvashi was the winner of the SEOY India Award in 2017.
These women leaders have become the harbingers of change and are instrumental in empowering women in the country by setting a befitting example as ‘Women Social Engineers’.