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EMpower’s Girl Leaders Moderate Session at Sankalp Global Summit 2019!

Posted 15 January 2020 in EMpower News, Grantee Partner News   |   Share


On November 27, EMpower’s Girls Advisory Council (GAC) leaders moderated a session at the Sankalp Global Summit 2019 in Mumbai. A high-table event, the Summit is an annual affair that brings together the world’s most promising entrepreneurs, impact investors, corporates, multilaterals, development finance institutions, foundations and policy makers.

In addition to the Summit, Sankalp organizes events around the year to support growth of SMEs and serves as a platform for innovative ideas to address issues of underserved communities. The central theme for this year’s Summit was ‘Collaborate 2030: Scaling Entrepreneurship for the Global Goals’, exploring five thematic areas across Agriculture, Climate Change & Energy, Financial Inclusion, Water, Health & Sanitation, and Livelihoods. Gender was a key area cutting across these themes and each session addressed the role and impact of women.

Beginning early to shift mindsets

In their session, GAC leaders underscored the need for entrepreneurship programs to include adolescent girls before ideas of what they can and cannot do become deeply entrenched. The session explored the benefits of:

  • Exposure for very young adolescent girls (aged 10-14) to entrepreneurship pathways outside of the norm
  • Building soft and hard skills such as computer literacy and budgeting for adolescent girls (aged 15-19)
  • Entrepreneurship programming for young women (aged 20-24)

The girl leaders were joined by an expert panel comprising Aruna Venkatachalam, Head of Operations and International, Young Change Agents, Krista Zimmerman, Regional Head of Influencing and Policy, Plan International, and Manjula Singh, Director Programmes and GIRL Capital, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).

Youth participants representing our partner organizations (Bright Future, CORO, Antarang Foundation and Vacha Charitable Trust) also participated in the session, sharing their insights and experiences to enrich the conversation.

Girl leaders share their suggestions for program designers

One day before the session, our girl leaders in Mumbai – Suman, Kajal, Nikita and Seema – met to prepare for the session. The EMpower team facilitated the Population Council’s Building Assets exercise with them, following which the girl leaders put into three age brackets i.e. 10-14, 15-19, and 20-24 all the assets (skills, information or physical asset) they thought girls needed to successfully pursue entrepreneurship.

Using the results from this exercise, the group worked together to draft age-differentiated suggestions for programs focusing on entrepreneurship that were shared by the girl leaders during the session.

Creating supportive environments for aspiring entrepreneurs

The EMpower team kicked off the panel discussion by stating that “youth is not a monolithic category”, emphasizing the need for programmers to design programs sensitive to diverse groups of young people, especially young girls and women. With the overarching idea of creating an environment that allows adolescent girls to seriously consider entrepreneurship and prepares them for it, here is what the discussants had to say:

“It is really important that we combine mentoring support with job placement”, said Manjula Singh from CIFF as she spoke about the importance of exposure and finding the ‘magic mix’ in entrepreneurship programming.

Krista Zimmerman from Plan International stressed upon equipping girls with the right attitude while preparing them for entrepreneurship. She said, “All women have something in common – they were girls before they became women”, reinforcing the idea that entrepreneurship programming needs to consciously bring adolescent girls into its fold.

Hearing from the youth participants

After the panel discussion, the room was divided into three groups and one discussant joined each group to guide the conversation ask the following questions about the needs of adolescent girls/young women in the context of entrepreneurship programming:

  • What inputs are needed in this age group to make a successful entrepreneur?
  • What is the best way to provide these inputs to this age group?
  • Who are the best stakeholders to provide these inputs?
  • Is there enough funding getting to these types of programs and what can we commit to?

Some of the insights shared by each group specific to the three age brackets:

For very young adolescent girls (10-14)

Focus on negotiation skills, leadership development, bringing entrepreneurial options into the classroom and involving boys within classrooms and communities in discussions around gender roles

For adolescent girls (15-19)

Emphasis on working with parents, organizing entrepreneurship fairs in schools and colleges and creation of peer support networks and buddy programs for aspiring entrepreneurs

For young women (20-24)

Focus on mentoring support for new female entrepreneurs, making service providers (investment experts, finance professionals, lawyers etc.) accessible to young women, engaging families and communities, and providing opportunities for exposure

Countering the narrative

Summing up the outcomes from the breakout session, Krista highlighted the importance of “countering the stories and narratives that society feeds girls and boys from an early age.”

Based on her discussion with the youth participants, Aruna shared that market research, leveraging technology and increasing access to information builds confidence in young women who want to start their own businesses.

Our girl leaders mean business!

Through our role as knowledge partners at the Sankalp Global Summit, we were able to use the platform to create an important and visible space for girl leaders. We are proud of our girl leaders for playing such key roles as moderators and for never missing an opportunity to put girls at the center!

We thank Sankalp for making this happen and joining us in our commitment towards amplifying girls’ voices.

The Girls Advisory Council (GAC) is an EMpower initiative, launched in 2018, which puts girls at the center of our work in India. The Council is comprised of a group of adolescent girl leaders who advise on EMpower’s grantmaking strategy in India and how to best meet the needs of adolescent girls.

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