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India
Young Entrepreneurs Crowd-source Funds For Rural Women
Surekha Kadapa-Bose

Priya Singh, a civil servant, was chatting with her Singapore-based friend on Facebook. With her upcoming birthday, the conversation turned to how she was planning to celebrate. Singh was looking to do something different and that's when her friend told her about an online platform that enables regular people to lend money to the working poor in select Indian states so that they can access basics like education, clean water, energy and sanitation. Singh instantly logged on to their website, understood their work and as she turned a year older, she marked the occasion by extending a loan. It is precisely to tap this vast resource pool of socially conscious people that three friends set up a crowd-funding website that provides interest-free loans through its field partners to women, children and unemployed youth.

"I had never imagined that becoming a lender would be such a joyful experience. It was the best birthday gift I could give myself. While I had been donating money and materials off-and-on, helping people to help themselves has been satisfying.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDL418R 1200 words


Pakistan
Abia’s The Young Voice Of Women With Disability

She is young and she is disabled. But instead of being a seen as a burden she is seen a beacon of hope and hailed an inspiration for excellence and activism. Abia Akram, 30, personifies the cause she champions: that education can be the catalyst in a world where those with disabilities are not always taken seriously. The first female with disabilities from Pakistan to win the much sought after U.K. Government’s Chevening scholarship, Akram has continued to push for change, altering antiquated notions of disability. She is the first woman from Pakistan and the first woman with disabilities to be nominated as the Coordinator for Commonwealth Young Disabled People’s Forum and is also the chair of the Youth Council of UNICEF. Adding to her list of accolades, she is the co-chair of Asia Pacific Women with Disabilities United, and focuses much of her time on education and training for women with disabilities to improve self-confidence, and lead others into the future. How did she make all of this possible at such a young age? Akram truly believes that education and her parents’ staunch support have given her the confidence to go out into the world and accomplish more than most thought was possible.

‘I have to accept my disability, not only for me, but for millions of women with disabilities in Pakistan and around the globe. I have a responsibility to do something for women with disabilities all over the world, especially in training for leadership.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: PAKO720 900 words


India
Come Join The Club That Fights Hunger
Ajitha Menon

Kshama Mondal, 19, enjoys learning new facts related to the food and nutrition and then putting them into practice. From being an active participant in the nutrition camps organised regularly in her Hosibad village of Bankura district, West Bengal, the teen has moved on to encouraging others. As a member of the Hosibad Naba Tarun Taruni Dal, a youth group, she organises activities that create awareness on issues related to health, education and development. Like Kshama, youngsters in 32 villages of Ghoshergram and Jhunjkagram panchayats have formed groups - comprising 10-15 members - that monitor Integrated Child Development Services and mid day meals, conduct nutrition workshops and check on the implementation of the Right to Education Act as well as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Food security, education security and income security - that's their mantra and ultimate aim.

We write and stage the street plays on themes like basic hygiene, healthy diet and good food habits. We also emphasise the importance of taking children for timely check-ups to the primary health centre,” sys Amita Roy, 15, of the Bortor Ashar Alo group.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN423R 1190 words


India
Arifa Shows How Business Is Done
Renu Agal

A young Kashmiri woman animatedly explains to a customer the intricate craftsmanship of the “exclusive” 'numdha' rugs she is selling in her Lalbazar shop in Srinagar. Surrounded by exquisite merino wool rugs embroidered with green paisleys, autumnal maple leaves and cherry blossoms, Arifa presents a picture of poise and confidence that belies her youth. She is the owner of Incredible Kashmir Crafts through which she hopes to revive the dying craft of 'numdha' rugs. In Kashmir, where shutdowns and strikes are common, a young woman running a business is a rare sight indeed. But while there may not be many women entrepreneurs in the Kashmir Valley, their numbers are slowly rising.

Arifa hopes to one day set up a company with artisans as shareholders so that everyone benefits from the revival of this dying craft. ‘The artisans are paid so little that they are not interested in this craft. I want to change that,’ she says.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDL126R 1230 words


India
Teenage Girls Generate Wealth To Secure Health
Ajitha Menon

When the thatched roof over Neetu Kumari’s mud home blew away during a violent thunderstorm she saw her parents worry about raising enough money to build one again. That’s when the 15-year-old stepped up and offered to buy an asbestos or aluminium sheet roof on their behalf. Her parents were left astounded. Manti Kumari, 18, has funded her own schooling and college admission and when recently her mother fell gravely ill she even managed to raise enough money to pay for her treatment. Across 70 villages of Ranchi and Hazaribagh districts in Jharkhand there are numerous teenage girls like Neetu and Manti, who are part of successful micro-credit ventures, which gives them access to money as and when they need it the most. Interestingly, greater financial control has not only given these girls a voice in the family – their thoughts and opinions are not ignored by their parents like before – it has also enabled them to improve their health and nutritional status as well as firmly reject early marriage.

“Some of us have convinced our parents to build toilets after offering to pay part of the costs through loans taken from the group.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO713O 1240 words
 
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