The protection of women’s’ rights and access to opportunities for economic empowerment are vital pieces to the reduction of extreme poverty. Indian women continue to face major challenges in gender equality as inferiority persists between men and women through familial relations and cultural norms. Emphasis on traditional gender roles such as taking care of the home, children, elders and religious obligations often leave women with little time to pursue educational opportunities. As a result, India has one of the lowest female literacy rates in Asia. With a lack of education, finding employment that provides a livable wage can seem hopeless, but organizations like Shakti.ism are creating new hope.

Economic Empowerment as a Solution – Shakti.ism

Shakti.ism, a female-led social enterprise, aims to dismantle these cultural norms through economic empowerment. The organization provides employment opportunities for women in India, many of whom are victims of domestic and gender-based violence. The women work to create unique hand-crafted accessories and develop and establish themselves as artisans. The social enterprise partners with NGOs throughout India to reach as women and girls as possible. Shakti.ism is also committed to abiding by and promoting the 10 Principles of Fair Trade and the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Founded by Jitna Bhagani, a survivor of gender-based violence herself, she hopes to encourage self-sustainment, independence and entrepreneurship in efforts “to break the cycle of poverty.”

Bhagani recognizes that cultural norms continue to largely impede upon the achievements and rights of women living in India. In a featured post by the Harvest Fund, Bhagani shares the stories of some of the women that Shakti.ism has helped. Many of these women are victims of discrimination as a result of the caste system. Although outlawed in 1950, it still remains deeply culturally embedded today. She notes that a lack of education, sex trafficking, familial relations and religious and cultural beliefs are some of the most prevalent causes of poverty and gender-based violence in India.


In collaboration with several NGOs, Bhagani’s Shakti.ism aims to tackle these issues by providing women with training focused on strengthening livelihood skills, compensating for a lack of formal education, a safe place to work, and alleviating dependence on male family members which reinforce societal norms. Another core goal of Shakti.ism’s mission is to provide women with the opportunity to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs, granting them access to a global market, financial and emotional support and secured wages.

Shakti.ism’s partnership with several NGOs has allowed the organization’s mission to reach women living in many parts of India, including Pondicherry, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Chennai. The nonprofit organization has also partnered with another social enterprise called Basha Enterprises, allowing the mission to expand its reach to women in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many of the women that have been employed by Shakti.ism have pursued entrepreneurship and are now participants in a global market, and working to ensure economic prosperity and a decrease in global poverty.

Future Directions

The United Nations cites that “empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Growth” which strives to end poverty. As demonstrated by the work and reach of Shakti.ism, the economic empowerment of women is vital in the mission to end global poverty.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Young owners of Greek startups are finding their businesses launched onto the international market directly after conception.

With economic degradation and youth unemployment at 50 percent, many are faced with a choice: to join the brain drain and move to Western Europe or to stay home and fight to make a living amongst stagnant mainstay industries such as shipping, olive oil, cheese and tourism. Very few jobs in the traditional sectors are available, and the country has long been resistant to global competition and innovation. With a bailout and increased regulation looming, the Greek economy hardly seems like the ideal ground to plant a business.

And yet, in this backwards business environment, the young entrepreneurial class is making it work. They are calling on Greece’s ancient mercantile roots to foster a host of new companies that are taking the initiative to begin rebuilding the country’s faltering economy. These young workers have taken advantage of the end of regulations, protections, tax breaks and provisions that have sheltered Greek businesses for years and hindered competition and new ventures.

Investors, both Greek and international, have jumped on the bandwagon as well. The Hellenic Initiative, a nonprofit sponsored by Greeks abroad, funds business initiatives including a custom folding bicycle designer, cosmetic safety lab and online fuel auctioning website.

Such companies have received funding from investors in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. Other examples of growing companies are Taxibeat, an Uber-like driving service and Workable, an employment tool that is now used in small and medium-sized companies in 39 countries.

With a large population of well-educated young labor force eager to work and jump into a new sector, workers are relatively inexpensive to employ and exhibit more loyalty to start-ups.

“There is no shortage of really smart kids, driven kids, with a lot of zeal and a lot of drive, a lot of hunger, and a pretty good business plan,” said Jeremy Downward, an investor for Alpheus Advisors.

Although many start-ups remain small and employ fewer than 20 people and can not transform the Greek economy alone, workers stay positive.

“Talking about all the negative aspects of this huge economic depression in this country doesn’t help that much. It helps if you can start building something that makes sense, and makes sense both for business and for society,” said start-up founder, Dimitris G. Kalavros-Gousiou.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: New York Times, BRW
Photo: New York Times

Camping typically involves “roughing it” in the great outdoors, but there is a new player on the market – Barebones – which offers a recreational camping experience fully equipped with electronics, lights and appliances. On the surface, the idea seems to deviate quite far from “real” camping, but the concept is actually quite useful when it comes to humanitarian and emergency response efforts.

Barebones is the sister organization of Goal Zero, an alternative energy organization that envisions “an empowered world in which everyone will have access to abundant, clean and modern energy.” Barebones provides portable shelters and accessories while Goal Zero builds solar-based energy solutions and initiatives that provide portable access to energy.

Entrepreneur, Robert Workman, created the first Goal Zero prototype after spending time working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Upon witnessing the devastating effects that war and political instability had on the nation — where most areas did not even have access to electrical power — he was inspired to change the world around him.

Workman first established the Utah-based humanitarian organization Teaching Individuals and Families Independence through Enterprise (TIFIE), which is “dedicated to fostering economic development by establishing sustainable business enterprises that produce goods and services and create lasting jobs.”

The organization helped establish agricultural development farms, medical initiatives, construction and transportation services throughout Africa — all of which illustrates their goal of helping people become self-sufficient and prosperous.

Through his work with TIFIE, Workman saw a need for renewable power and established Goal Zero to offer solutions to this problem. Goal Zero creates unique portable solar power systems that can be used in even the most remote areas, with a portion of the proceeds from all purchases donated to TIFIE.

In addition to its product development, Goal Zero established the “Share the Sun” initiative, which allows buyers to use “sun shares” they accumulate from purchased Goal Zero products to donate to a project of their choice.

They offer a simple three-step process: (1) buy power, (2) share power and (3) follow the impact.

Once a buyer donates their sun shares, they can track the progress of the project while staying connected through social media updates. The Share the Sun initiative appeals to buyers by asking, “We all live under the same sun, but we don’t all have the same opportunity to use it. So if you could, wouldn’t you share it?”

Rifk Ebeid

Sources: 174 Solar, Gizmag, Goal Zero, Tifie
Photo: Barebones Living