Women everywhere are still struggling to reach economic autonomy, even if they work longer hours than men when we consider unpaid and informal work; they are still paid less than men for the same jobs, globally; they are underrepresented in political, corporate and academic leadership positions, everywhere; they are largely not allow to determine their own futures and to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights; they are too often violated and attacked, forced to live in fear and dependency.

The aim of Womanity’s work is to empower women within their community and to increase their voice and agency in the public sphere. This, we firmly believe, accelerates social, economic and political progress for all. Gender equality favours inclusion, diversity and productivity, which paves the way to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; whereas further discrimination and exclusion of girls and women will set us all back.

We also believe that social entrepreneurs are successful trailblazers for deep-reaching and lasting positive change, with their innovative models, collaborative spirit and impact-driven approaches.

These are the premises of our WomenChangeMakers’ Fellowship program. Launched in 2010, it identifies leading social entrepreneurs who work towards women’s empowerment, and invests in their efforts to scale up their scope, reach and impact. Each in their own way, WCM Fellows focus on emancipating women and creating opportunities for them to realize their potential, in India and Brazil.

Such is the case of Safeena Husain, founder and CEO of Educate Girls, the first WCM Fellow in India. Founded in 2007, Educate Girls drives transformative change by enrolling out-of-school girls, improving children’s learning outcomes by working with teachers and parents, and helping communities assess the needs in their local schools and act upon them. During the first year of the WCM Fellowship in 2013, over 20 thousand out-of-school girls were served by Educate Girls. By 2015, Educate Girls was operating in more than 11,000 schools across 4,500 villages in Rajasthan, India. By now, more than one million girls have benefited from the program. WCM partners PWC in India, as well as Mercuri UrvalUBS Optimus Foundation and others strategically contributed to this impressive growth.

Safeena Husain has spoken highly of the support she received through the WCM program, saying: “The more you invest in the program, the more you’ll get. The larger and more ambitious your vision is, the more impact you will be able to achieve with its support.”

The central strategy for the WCM Fellowship is to facilitate strong and effective collaborations between its Fellows and professional partners from corporate, academic or social development fields. Together, they will strengthen the business strategy of the WCM Fellow’s organisation and build organisational and personal capacity to ensure its most effective implementation. Over a period of three years, the professional partners offer technical assistance, expertise and valuable network connections to contribute to the WCM Fellows scaling process, and optimize their impact.

The positive evolution of Mulher em Construção (MEC) in Brazil demonstrates this. In 2013, MEC’s founder Maria Beatriz Kern became one of our WCM Fellows. The first step was to build MEC’s organisational capacity and help expand their outreach. Research undertaken by WCM partner University of St. Gallen in Brazil, shows that construction companies benefit from the work of skilled female professionals: women pay more attention to detail, waste less products and positively influence the overall behaviour of workers on the site. Recently, MEC had a project approved by the Brazil Foundation, another WCM partner, to train 100 women in construction work in Rio Grande do Sul.

We firmly believe the WCM model can have a deeply transformative effect on the landscape of women’s equality around the world.

Since we launched the program, we’ve made some key learnings:

  • Documenting the program’s impact at grassroots’ level is essential to understand how to achieve systemic change.
  • Knowledge-sharing and a collaborative approach are crucial to the scaling process. Not only does this capitalise on learnings, it increases the effectiveness and efficiency of the program.
  • There is no ‘one size fits all’. Social enterprises are highly complex and as such require complex, tailored solutions.

As part of its ongoing support, the WCM Fellowship provides an external needs’ assessment and prioritised action plan for the growth and development strategy to increase impact. It also facilitates collaboration between current Fellows and Alumni of the program.

One of the current WCM Fellows is Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, which provides access to affordable clean energy for low-income households in rural Rajasthan, India. Frontier Markets aims to provide clean energy access to 1 million households in India by 2020, while creating income-generating opportunities for women.

Another is Bijal Brahmbhatt, founder of the Mahila Housing Trust, based in Gujarat, India. Providing housing, sanitation and energy for low-income households in seven Indian states, MHT has served over 1.5 million people over the past five years.

Both bear witness to the growing impact of the WCM ecosystem which identifies, supports, and connects leading social entrepreneurs addressing women’s access to education and healthcare, and economic and political participation. Gradually, by working together to help their transformative approaches reach a larger population, deepen their impact and positively change the problems at their root, these social entrepreneurs, together with their corporate, academic and social partners are creating a fairer, more inclusive and more prosperous world, for entire communities.

In India and in Brazil, Womanity continues to search for social entrepreneurs who are ready to go to scale and to join its WCM Fellowship, as well as for professional partners who will commit to contributing their expertise and resources towards the Fellows ambitious goals. If you are interested, please contact us via info@womanity.org.


Womanity’s WomenChangeMakers Fellowship programme is generously co-funded by the Trafigura Foundation and Philip Morris International.

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