Female Empowerment and Social Entrepreneurship in Today's Global Society
Social Initiative is a non-profit organization that has developed an innovative model to support social entrepreneurs who solve societal challenges in Sweden, India and East Africa. Founded by SSE alumni, Pernilla Bard and Caroline Cederlöf, Social Initiative partners with corporates and philanthropists to contribute capital and knowledge to strengthen and scale up the work of the social entrpreneurs.
One of their social entrepreneurs is Barbara Mutabazi, founder of Women in Technology Uganda (WITU). Born in the slums of Kampala and a computer scientist by profession, Barbara recognized the need for women in her situation to develop skills in technology to gain employment and, thus, become empowered income earners in their respective families. She started teaching computer skills to girls in her community and quickly realized that there was a high demand for skill-building courses. After her program, the girls would go on to find employment that they would otherwise have struggled to get. She asked herself “what if we could do more?”and in 2014, WITU opened their first office.
The main mission of WITU is to help young women create sustainable livelihoods through technology and entrepreneurship. As of now, WITU has trained 8,000 girls and young women from the slums and under resourced schools in Kampala in Information Technology (IT), entrepreneurship and coding.
WITU’s training begins with a focus on changing the mindset of the women that come to them. Barbara explains that these women often come from very male-dominated communities where they have grown up in an environment that enforces the idea that the women are not supposed to be income earners, let alone business owners. Therefore, WITU’s training begins by breaking down this stereotype and building up participants' self-esteem. It then moves on to skill-building and vocational training. Once the women start believing in themselves – and realize their value – WITU asks them to imagine where they would want to be if they had no limitations whatsoever. This is the starting point for the entire training course.
“When you empower a woman, you empower her daughter and her son. You empower an entire community”
Barbara is a firm believer that these women are the best people to solve challenges within their own communities. This view is shared by Social Initiative who see social entrepreneurs as similar to commercial entrepreneurs, but without a focus on profit. Instead, social entrepreneurs are driven by solving societal challenges – they work with creating lasting solutions to challenges they see in their community. Additionally, social entrepreneurship can promote systemic change and create opportunities for under-served communities. In WITU’s case, the impact is evident: 50% of the women that complete WITU’s training find employment after they finish and 32% become business owners.
--- Parting words:
Empowering women means empowering an entire community. It means empowering their daughters to want to become just like their mothers, to believe that employment is possible and that they can aspire to their own income and a certain level of financial independence. It means empowering their sons and creating a generational shift in communities where women traditionally do not work.