Since call-for-submissions opened in March, we have had the pleasure of reviewing so many inspiring ideas which sought to empower women and girls in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region.
After a gruelling selection process – with many of us in the Project Inspire team ‘fighting’ for submissions we felt strongly for – we selected nine projects to be finalists of Project Inspire 2012.
One representative from each finalist project was invited to Singapore for a five-day programme, which culminates in the Grand Finals on 31 August 2012 at the INSEAD Asia Campus, Singapore. As part of the programme, they were invited to workshops with leading management consultancy firms such as Bain & Company, as well as seminars in top universities to share their project ideas and inspirations.
As part of the final ‘showdown’, these teams presented their projects to an esteemed panel of international judges. From the presentations, we had the opportunity to learn so much more about the projects, the women and communities which they helped, and felt the sincere passion of each presenter as they shared their stories.
The judging panel confessed that it was no easy task to choose a winner for the grand prize of a US$25,000 grant. Each initiative holds its own merit in helping disadvantaged women and girls gain sustainable livelihood through entrepreneurship. After a long and intensive deliberation, the judges decided to award the US$25,000 Women’s Empowerment grant to Women’s Private Personal Market Place from Rajasthan, India.
Represented by Rustam Sengupta, the winning project aims to empower women in rural Rajasthan to become entrepreneurs by selling feminine hygiene products to other rural women via a mobile phone application. The application also acts as a platform to provide essential health and sanitary education to these largely illiterate women, as well as offer them a private interface to access feminine hygiene products. This project is a collaboration between Rajasthan-based Boond, and Decode Global, a Canadian incubator of mobile apps for social change.
In a surprise development at the Grand Finals, MasterCard Worldwide put forward a US$10,000 Special Recognition Award, which the judging panel presented to LIFE – Livelihood Initiative for Empowerment from Sri Lanka, represented by Dulma Kandaramage. This project aims to help a group of war-affected women returnees in Northern Sri Lanka, largely widows, enhance their entrepreneurship capacities through micro-business training and access to credit facilities.
Additionally, Project Stitch from the Philippines, represented by Soleil Manzano, was named the winner of the first-ever Project Inspire People’s Choice Award for receiving the largest share of online votes from the public. Project Stitch aims to support the livelihood of displaced women in the poor communities of Manila through sewing co-operatives.
The Grand Finals may be over but the journey for Project Inspire 2012 grant recipients is about to start. Stay tuned to follow their inspired stories right here on this blog!
On behalf of the UN Women Singapore – MasterCard Project Inspire team, I thank you for your continued support.