“Women are the solution to ending poverty.” Our co-founder, Laina Greene, was sharing this powerful message in a Tedx Talk on 29th October 2016. Joined by three other women on the stage, the day was filled with the sharing of touching, inspiring and motivating stories that demonstrated our ability to catalyse positive change in the world if we only believed in ourselves and encouraged each other to step up and take action.
Laina began by asking us what we typically visualize when we hear the word “poverty”. An image of a woman and a child begging on the street immediately came to my mind. Laina pointed out that like me, many others visualize poverty this way as it is an issue that predominantly affects women. She shared a painful truth – this was indeed the reality where one out of every 7 women in the world do live in poverty. The burden of poverty is borne mostly by women as they are the ones who walk for miles to collect water, the ones who do the subsistence farming, take care of the elderly and children and so they are seldom the beneficiaries of efforts which have succeeded in reducing poverty in the world. This was confirmed in a study by the UNDP which even reported that that as many as 70% of the world’s poor were women. This phenomena where women get left behind in poverty alleviation efforts is known as the “feminization of poverty”.
Laina shared her passion for empowering women in poverty and told us why we ought to care since data shows that when women get out of poverty, her family and her community also gets out of poverty. She shared insightful examples on how women can be the key solution to effectively address the problem of poverty. She shared Mohamed Yunus’s idea in his book “Creating a world without poverty” of how we should move beyond charity. Instead, we should support social businesses or social enterprises that have sustainable business models that in turn help many mpre women micro-enterprises restore dignity and have sustainable livelihoods. Only with sustainable livelihoods can these women truly end the cycle of poverty.
Laina shared a story of a compassionate and admirable woman, Dinny Jusuf. She is the founder of Torajamelo, an Indonesian social enterprise helping 1,000 micro-enterprises of women weavers. Dinny provides these women with access to global markets, better prices for raw materials, help understanding market tastes and proper training so that they satisfy quality standards demanded by customers globally. Dinny did much to also elevate the status of wearing weaving by having key celebrities and even fashion shows, and now there is even a demand for weaving locally in these villages. By providing these women with a regular income for their weaving, Dinny is providing each of them with a sustainable livelihood. Torajamelo has been recognized globally not just for its noble cause but also for its quality and authenticity of its designs.
While the brand’s success has prompted many weavers from other parts of Indonesia to request for a partnership, it is not all smooth sailing for Dinny. She is constantly faced with challenge of raising funds for her social enterprise. According to Laina, women rarely get funding and even if they do, it tends to be a very small amount as women are seen as being incapable of running large-scale businesses. This is where, Laina says, you and I come in.
Laina started funding Torajamelo out of her own pocket and soon after, her friends who shared a desire to support the same vision joined. Inspired by the movement they had started, Laina and Audrey co-founded Angels of Impact. Through a trusted network of friends, Angels of Impact seeks to serve women-led social enterprises such as Torajamelo to continue transforming the lives of women. The response has been nothing less than amazing; within four short months, they managed to rally a movement of individuals and corporates who want to do good with talents, gifts and skills they have.
It was fascinating to hear about how Angels of Impact was helping women lift themselves out of poverty. The best part is that any one of us can be a part of this force by following a few simple steps:
Ending poverty is in our hands. When we care enough about the cause, we can find sustainable ways to fight against poverty.