Inspired women are Empowered women

Women and young people in developing countries are undervalued and underrepresented, and few initiatives have helped bridge the divide. The evidence suggests that the gap will grow, eroding decades of political, humanitarian and socio-economic reforms, condemning our societies to failure.

The goal of gender equality has been at the centre of the economic and political agenda during the two decades since the adoption of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. In September 2015, world leaders adopted the 17 new global Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. Goal 5 focuses specifically on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

When you ask the question “how is success measured?, you will often find that the majority of people reply “by wealth”. How often do we see media covering real-life stories told by people themselves? Do we question why developing countries are referred to as the ‘third world’? We need to consider whether this kind of language is part of the process that perpetuates disadvantage, since it models the global community as a hierarchy of wealth and places in which poor people and poor countries are at the bottom of that hierarchy.

So then, can the developing countries of the African continent enable, empower and inspire through the philanthropic acts of their own people, and so, change lives? Can they drive forward the development of societies striving to achieve growth and social cohesion by embedding equal opportunities within their own institutions, legal systems and cultures?

We know that to fuel growth, it is imperative to empower women and promote gender equality. Only when women take their rightful place in African society will the continent’s sustainable development be feasible. Closing the gender gap will also be a driver for development in many other neglected domains; education, employment, healthcare and social welfare. Giving women solid educational foundations and suitable opportunities will make it possible for them to become the social and economic actors who are envisaged by the global community’s renewed commitment to gender equality.

The Mara Foundation, set up in 2009, became one of UN Women’s partners in Africa in January 2014. With the aim of helping women entrepreneurs to find the support, training and business development opportunities they need, it contributed its online mentoring platform for entrepreneurs to the community of resources and tools offered by the UN Women’s Empower Women. Mara Mentor helps young entrepreneurs connect with their industry peers, and quickly access valuable business advice and training materials. The aim is to use Africa’s entrepreneurial DNA to promote women’s economic empowerment.

An obvious aim is to eradicate the social and political unrest caused by high youth unemployment and the resulting lack of aspiration among young people. Empowering women is part of that process – better educated women raise better educated children – but empowered women bring many more benefits, to herself and to the larger society.

All the evidence tells us that when we empower women, there is a ripple effect. Research shows that women who are able to earn their own living are more likely than men to plough their resources back into education, health care and community welfare; the whole community benefits. If we help women entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to succeed in their chosen field, they, in turn, will inspire future generations and support financial and fiscal movement and growth.

A recent OECD data makes it clear that education is an incremental factor for driving change. In its work in partnership with UN Women, the Mara Foundation argues that we also need to consider the influence of entrepreneurship and employment. We believe that a unified vision of breaking down barriers in the employment sector and promoting equal opportunities for women and men will also help boost growth and well-being.

The most direct approach to creating this kind of change is through mentoring and it can be life-changing, helping entrepreneurs turn their visions into reality. Since forming its partnership with UN Women, the Mara Foundation and Mara Mentor have already helped more than 600,000 entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa, and our target is to reach five million by 2020 through our partnerships with UN Women, Ernst and Young, and McKinsey.

Across the continent, inequality needs to be addressed relentlessly. This requires the support and focus of global leaders and governments who can revise and implement public policies that address the issues surrounding rights for young people and for women.

As Ashish J. Thakkar, founder of the Mara Foundation, says: “The true measurement of success is the impact that you have made on the lives of people.”

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  • Badejoko Fabamise
    This is a brilliant initiative by UN women and Mara Foundation. Mentoring helps women to take bolder steps and make smart moves. The platforms will truly be instrumental to women's success and empowerment and also solidify partnerships. Only when a woman is empowered educationally, socially and in all areas can she make reformed and informed decisions to better her livelihood and that of the larger society. I am truly inspired by this initiative. Thanks much UN women and Mara Foundation
  • Joy Eze
    Yes empowering women is not just the right thing to do,it is also the smart way to go!
  • Kassoum Coulibaly
  • Angela Ianniciello
    Very inspiring article. Indeed at Grameemn bank almost all clients are women because they are more trustworthy and more likely to develop a business that will eradicate poverty or enhance childhood education. Great initiative that gives hope for the future.
  • An empowered woman is an empowered society. "Empowering women is part of that process – better educated women raise better educated children – but empowered women bring many more benefits, to herself and to the larger society". Empowered women are an inspiration to everyone.
  • Shreeane K. Dasani
    @Evelyn Bisona Fonkem - Very true and of course empowering women to develop and grow socially is essential for a sustainable future! With significantly high barriers in education and training for women, they are limited in their participation of higher skilled and remunerative work. And so in many developing countries self employed women are not recognized as entrepreneurs and as a result face difficulty in accessing development and training services... as quoted by the UN Women ''Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities''. Lets all continue to give back in whichever ways we can and lets be apart of the change for a sustainable future. For more information please visit
  • Shreeane K. Dasani
    @Teresa Abila – Indeed we must continue in our efforts to assist women to maximize their potential and realize there worth. With the support of great-minded individuals such as yourself and the members of the ‘empowerwomen’ community, we can continue to raise awareness and reassuringly strengthen the movement of women’s economic empowerment. For more information please visit
  • Evelyn Bisona Fonkem
    Africa lacks female entrepreneurs.It is therefore very essential for African Governments to ensure that they provide women and girls with strategic gender needs for example providing them with entrepreneurial and vocational trainings so that it can encourage them to start up their own businesses which will go a long way to reduce women and girls dependency on men and increase households economically.
  • Shreeane K. Dasani
    @Clarissa Rios Rojas - Thank you for your contribution! Such stigma and reference has been a strong misrepresentation of developing economies over the years, however growth occurs at different stages for each economy ... With the emergence of reinforced political agendas and platforms aiding to drive change as catalyst in developing countries, we look forward to witnessing the potential and capabilities yet to be harnessed… As quoted by our Founder, Ashish J. Thakkar: “I was recently at an investor conference in the United States and someone asked me, “When do you think Africa will catch up?” I replied, “We won’t. We will lead the way.” For more information please visit
  • Shreeane K. Dasani
    @Olipa Phiri - Indeed with continued joint efforts and persistence from individuals, organizations, communities and governments to form sustainable partnerships and integrate accordingly... We can continue to close the gap and empower women through the provision of support mechanisms and platforms such as Mara Foundation and increasingly support women globally to develop and engage them in economic and social activities in hindsight of a sustainable future. For more information please visit
  • Shreeane K. Dasani
    @Gladys Muthara - Thank you - we are truly inspired by your words... Your efforts are remarkable, irrespective of the scale – as long as we can continue to create and raise awareness around women’s empowerment we are all working towards a shared vision of a sustainable future. Continue to share your knowledge, empower and inspire! For more information please visit
  • Shreeane K. Dasani
    @Alysia Silberg - Thank you for your input. Its visionaries that enable platforms like Mara Foundation to succeed, together we can continue to transform our world for a better tomorrow by changing lives! For more information please visit
  • Teresa Abila
    Mentoring,capacity building and skills development play a critical role in women's economic empowerment.A woman cannot realize her potential worth if she is not inspired to realize it. Through skills development, a woman becomes aware of her natural abilities and takes advantage of it. Women Economic Empowerment advances their ability to become economically useful in their societies and enhance sustainable developments. Thank you UN Women and Mara Foundation for reaching and empowering women through mentorship platforms. This goes along away to the future generations
  • I like to challenge the terminology that is used sometimes to describe Africa, LatinAmerica or SouthEast asia. They call us undevelop countries, thirld world countries while they call themselves First world countries and develop countries. It seems that we all have to aspire to be like "develop countries" that seem to have achieved the highest level of development. I think that latinamerican countries and african countries have many things that are lacking in the so called develop countries. For example , family ties are really strong, we also still respect our indigenous communities, we still preserve our flora, fauna and biodiversity, our gun control laws are tough, we keep respect to our elders, we are tough and creative solving problems, we are proud of our rich cultural and historical diversity..etc. I think many of these characteristics are needed on the so called first world countries and the only way to progress is by breaking the walls that separate us and keep us pushing us away one from another. We must understand that by empowering the poor, the women, we can create a better world...together!
  • Olipa Phiri
    True that. I believe that with the increased role of women from household duties to economic endeavors, we must recognize that ‘us’, women, need each other in the same way men and women need each other to move forward. We are now entering an age where group effort, mentoring and team work is the key. There is need for a shared responsibility on all those who have experienced what it means to be economic empowered and made it from all aspects of life, from family to community and global governance.
  • Young women in Africa require someone to inspire and mentor them bearing in mind all the challenges that they have to overcome daily as women in a continent where poor policies that are not gender sensitive exist, lack of education, wars, inadequate maternal healthcare, violence against women etc. My interaction with fellow young women in Africa has made me realize that there is a lot of potential in all of us, given proper mentoring on matters education, entrepreneurship, leadership... The youth of Africa, majority of whom are young women, are very crucial to Africa's development; they are the ones who are creating innovative solutions to Africa's most pressing challenges. I am glad to be alive in an era where Mara Foundation and UN Women exist to empower young women like us. Thank you for all the great work you are doing in mentoring young women. My commitment is to contribute, in my own small way, towards Africa's young women empowerment through mentoring, life-skills training, as well as projects that directly focus on economic empowerment.
  • Alysia Silberg
    Thank-you for sharing this piece. As an entrepreneur that loves mentoring young South African entrepreneurs, I'm thrilled that they have access to organizations such as The Mara Foundation, that fulfill such a critical need within the economy. Since my recent TED talk, I have interacted with ambitious, inspirational female entrepreneurs on a larger scale and am always so happy to hear that they're gaining from valuable resources such as this!
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