By: Mario Ferro, Co-Founder and CEO of Wedu
Wedu is one of the winners of the Women Deliver Social Enterprise Challenge and the first-ever Global Solution Awards, which highlight innovative approaches to social entrepreneurship aiming to improve the lives of girls and women. Winners were announced at the third Women Deliver conference in May 2013.
Wedu unlocks the next generation of female leaders in South East Asia by providing inspiring mentorship for leadership development and innovative financial options to complete university. We aim to revolutionize the leadership development landscape and connect thousands of Rising Stars from the most underprivileged backgrounds to opportunities to achieve large scale social change in their communities in a financially sustainable manner. You can all join us becoming a Mentor for a Rising Star, an Education Angel, or just contact us to know more.
In the whole world, women struggle to reach leadership positions. In most parliament, women are well below 30% of representatives. Less than 5% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO. However, it is in the developing world that women fare the worst. When young, they are traded to the entertainment industry or given in marriage as teenagers, dying during premature pregnancies. Their brothers are often favored in the pursuit of higher education. Coming out of poverty is hard for everybody, but for women, society makes this challenge even more daunting. This doesn’t have to be.
At Wedu, we believe that where you are born and your gender should not affect your ability to develop your leadership potential and become a strong changemaker. It is a matter of justice as much as of economic development. I am a man and I believe that it is in the ultimate interest of all of us to create the conditions for all of us to see out talent blossom. Jacqueline Novogratz once said “We cannot all prosper if half of the world is unable to fully flourish”.
We invest in leadership development and higher education because together they build the confidence, competence and networks required to succeed at the higher level in the Least Development Countries where we select Wedu’s Rising Stars. Like an investor would do in startup in Silicon Valley, Wedu provides capital (scholarship, student loans and Future Income Sharing Agreements) and non-financial support in the form of mentorship. We are discovering that mentorship is the single most powerful component of our model, but funds will always have an important role for the Rising Stars to achieve success. Financial sustainability in the long run is a critical component of being a social enterprise and I believe that social entrepreneurship is uniquely posed to unlock capital that would not be used toward social change otherwise. While I want more Education Angels (our supporters and investors) to join the Wedu cause, I also recognize that in some cases charity is the only way to solve large scale problems fast. Wedu aims to leverage the best of both the private sector and charity world to create a scalable and replicable business model for others to follow.
At the Women Deliver conference, we met many other changemakers trying to bring large scale social change for women in health, education, justice and much more. Some of the networks developed there have needed to scale up development in the past few months. We leveraged the opportunity of presenting to a large audience to give Thida (on the left in the picture), one of our Rising Stars passionate about Health Economics, an occasion to develop her public speaking skills. She inspired both us and the audience with her story and ambitions.
Winning the Global Solution Award at Women Deliver brought further recognition and publicity which helped us engage supporters in South East Asia and outside the region. We are using the prize to extend our reach to more Rising Stars and we really look forward to further engage the Women Deliver community. We encourage you to become a Mentor for a Rising Star, an Education Angel, or just reach out to know more.
Chris Andersen of TED once shared with me a line I want to share with all my fellow social entrepreneurs: “A moment will come when the survival of your organization will depend only on how badly you want that to happen”. No matter how hard that moment is going to be, don’t quit, don’t quit, don’t quit and feel free to reach out to me if you believe I can help.
You can follow Wedu at www.wedufund.org, on Twitter @Wedufund and on facebook. You can also follow Mario @Mario4change.