My Heroine - Taiwan's Women Social Enterpreneurs Break The Glass Ceiling

Taiwan
By:: 
Jing-En Kin

Women are natural born leaders in the social enterprise space. But especially so in Taiwan, where female social entrepreneurs are over-represented.

Click for Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese version of this article

Michelle Bachelet, the 2012 UN Women’s Executive Director and president of Chile, once said that “women are natural social entrepreneurs”. This has been attributed to the fact that women often have to make altruistic choices when juggling career and family, as well as solve problems affecting those around them like family and community. Generally speaking, women have a natural proclivity to be nurturing and their work is an extension of how they see the world. (Though, this is not to say that men are not nurturing or altruistic, or that all women are nurturers - neither are the case and there are many shades of gray.)

Growing evidence that an increasing number of females are at the forefront of change in the social enterprise sector:

  • 38 percent of new social enterprise start-ups are led by females, with over 90 percent of impact ventures having at least one woman on their leadership team. On the other hand, almost half of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have all-male directors (The Independent)
  • Women are 1.17 times more likely than men to create social ventures rather than only economic ventures, and 1.23 times more likely to pursue environmental ventures than economic-focused ventures (Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Research)

Interestingly, Taiwan is an anomaly. Female social entrepreneurs are over-represented in Taiwan. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the total early-stage entrepreneurship (TEA) rate for Taiwanese females stands at 67 per cent, almost double Japan's 35 per cent in Japan and Korea's 20 percent. 

The reason for these high numbers is high education and an increasingly open society. in addition the Taiwanese government is a huge supporter of female entrepreneurship, going so far as to devote a chapter to womens entrepreneurship in its white paper on it as early as 2003.

These Taiwanese pioneers are showing that women are thriving in the social enterprise sector by making use of their unique strengths to achieve positive social impact. Here are two such SEs in Taiwan that are run by women. 

Dharti Mata Sustainable Workshop

Claire Lin from Taiwan is one of those women. Claire devoted herself into non-profit work since graduating from college – training volunteers in developing countries. During one of her trips, she realized that menstruation has a social stigma attached to it, as women were always considered shameful and ‘unclean’ during their periods.

Dharti Mata Sustainable Workshop produces sanitary pads made of locally sourced materials

One year later, when Claire bought the first menstrual cloth pad on her trip to south India, she was inspired by the idea and decided to start up the Dharti Mata Sustainable Workshop in Nepal to empower and educate local women. The studio employs community women to make affordable menstrual cloth pads with sustainable materials and offers menstrual hygiene lessons.

Despite not knowing how to use a sewing machine, Claire persevered and worked with the women to develop eco-friendly Lovelady pads from locally sourced cotton.  

Dharti Mata is a social enterprise that employs women to produce cotton sanitary pads and educated them about menstrual hygiene

In less than a year, the company accumulated thousands of production and managed to break even. Looking back, she thinks the most important thing is to know clearly what you want to achieve.“You have to be moved by your own ideas. Once you’ve decided, you don’t need to think too much, just go for it!” 

Dharti Mata’s products now can be found in 9 different retail locations in Taiwan and Hong Kong. You can also purchase them online here.

 

Geng Shi Lian Yuan Social Enterprise

Geng Shi Lian Yuan Social Enterprise

Just like Claire, Su-Hua Yu and Ruei-Chu Chen began their social enterprise journey in New Taipei City by chance.

“Geng Shi Lian Yuan(耕心蓮苑)” was founded two decades ago, when Yu and her school teacher colleague, Chen went for home visit to her students’ families. She realized that many primary students in community schools were loitering around and performing more poorly than their peers, as their parents were mostly blue-collar migrants from rural areas who had to work long hours.

Moved by the plight of these children, they began to provide after-school care for students from families with poor financial conditions in their own homes.

It was not easy for them to take these first steps. Community members questioned their continued commitment and ability to support the students. It wasn’t until they saw students’ improvement in performance that the community began to support Yu and Chen’s work.

However, the massive growth in student numbers worsened their already tight financial situation. So, Geng Shi Lian Yuan decided to run a pay-what-you-want community kitchen to supplement their income.

At first, some showed up packing their large empty bowls and pots with food without paying. This was hugely demoralizing and saw a decline in volunteers.

Fortunately, thanks to the support from community members, the kitchen managed to maintain its business. During the global financial crisis in 2008, this community kitchen served as a strong caring center for many unemployed residents.

Now, the kitchen is like a joint common room for all community members – some help with preparing cooking ingredients, farmers nearby also send their surplus production for free to support the centre.

Yu has also branched out by opening the “Love Family One” social enterprise, which sells bakery products such as pineapple and walnut cakes made by community moms to support after-school care.

Check out more purpose-driven Taiwanese companies on our social enterprise directory.

[Traditional Chinese]

她們那些微小而深刻的事業

根據全球創業觀察(GEM)年度報告指出,台灣女性的創業比率在亞洲國家當中相當活躍。以男、女性在新創事業早期投入相比,若以男性為100當比較基準,台灣女性則為67,遠高於日本及韓國的3520;英國《獨立報》也指出,社會企業的領域中有38%的新創公司由女性領導。

這些數據都顯示,已有愈來愈多女性選擇開創自己的事業,而服務業和社會企業,更是許多女性創業的優先選擇。前智利總統蜜雪兒.巴綺蕾(Michelle Bachelet)甚至在2012社會企業國際論壇的致詞中提到,「女性是天生的社會企業家。」

女性是不是天生的社會企業家?這點還是因人而異,但可以肯定的是,無論是照顧家庭還是投入社會企業,對女性而言都是在小我與大我之間,用「利他」的心態尋找解決問題的方法。或許因為如此,在社會企業這種需要「社會導向」思維的領域,女性往往有特別傑出的表現。

台灣七年級女生林念慈,便是其中一位佼佼者。林念慈大學畢業後即投入非營利組織工作,經常帶領志工遠赴開發中國家服務。在一次的服務經驗中,她發現在尼泊爾,女性的生理期往往是羞恥的,甚至被視為「不潔淨」。隔年當她赴南印旅遊,買了人生第一塊布衛生棉時,她便決定回到尼泊爾成立「棉樂悅事」工作坊,希望透過倡導女性製作及使用布衛生棉的過程,讓「月事」漸漸成為女孩們的「悅事」。

從無到有的創業過程中,林念慈認為最重要的是必須想清楚自己真正想做的事,「要被自己的想法感動」;而一但決定投入,也不用等到去學理財或是想很多之後才開始,「當時的我連縫紉機都不會用。」

這個連縫紉機都不太熟悉的年輕女生,帶著從KEEP WALKING計畫獲得的一百萬獎金遠赴尼泊爾創業,從三名女性員工開始了小小的布衛生棉事業。透過培訓當地婦女縫製衛生棉墊,棉樂悅事不僅提供就業機會,也在村落推廣生理期的衛教知識,讓婦女學習如何照顧自己的身體;她們的棉布也從當地取材,製造符合當地消費水平又高品質的平價產品,希望帶給女性舒適、健康的使用經驗,目前已累積數千片的產量,不到一年就達損益兩平。

如今不僅在尼泊爾的村落,在台灣、香港等九個據點都能見到棉樂悅事一片片色彩繽紛的花布,每片都蘊含著對環境的友善與對女性的關懷。

就像林念慈一樣,三重「耕心蓮苑」的誕生,也是緣於創辦人生命中偶然的經歷。二十多年前,當時擔任教職的余素華和同學陳瑞珠一起去三重做家庭訪問時,看到許多在街頭徘徊、無所事事的學生。當年的三重住著許多北上打拼的小家庭,藍領階級居多,而這些家庭的孩子往往放學後就在街上遊蕩,和其他經濟寬裕、放學便去補習班上課的學生相比,學業進度很容易就落後一大截。

當時她們心想:我們能為這些孩子做些什麼?於是在余素華教書的第一年,她們就在自己家裡開始了課後的義務輔導,把家境不好的學生帶到家中學習。後來她們透過手邊的存款以及銀行貸款,湊了一百萬當作「辦學基金」,就這樣在社區裡開始了孩子們的課後輔導。

耕心蓮苑相當注重中華傳統文化的倫理與智慧,所以課後積極帶著孩子們學習與背誦四書五經,從日常生活中和長輩問候開始,落實孝道、禮節及品格修養,重拾失落的家庭教育,也修復許多家庭的親子關係。

雖然初期一度遭到社區質疑,以為她們要開私家補習班而強力抨擊,但看到孩子們日漸改變與成長,社區居民的態度也逐漸軟化,甚至出錢出力,要讓耕心蓮苑持續運作下去。

然而讀經班採取「不計束脩、隨喜付費」的方式,上課的學生又從原先不到十個人一路增加到數百人,使她們財務上逐漸吃緊。為了補貼辦學的經費,她們在社區開辦一間小食堂,一樣採取隨喜付費的模式,不過這不僅考驗著人性,也深深試驗創辦人的決心。

初期有些人連續數月拿著鍋子和大碗來盛菜,裝滿後卻轉身就走,讓一些志工因為人性的貪婪而失望離去。幸好在幾位熱心居民的呼朋引伴之下,遞補了志工的空缺,而食堂也在2008年金融風暴期間,讓許多驟然失業的民眾可以在此得到溫暖、飽餐一頓。食堂漸漸受到整個社區的支持,不僅有居民幫忙備料、切菜,附近的果菜批發商也會將賣不完的菜送到餐廳,節省他們的成本。

如今這個「把企業當做家一樣經營」的食堂,已成為讀經班辦學的經費來源之一;她們也進一步成立「愛一家親社會企業」,結合社區媽媽們的力量,一起製作美味可口且無食品添加物的核桃糕、鳳梨酥、香樁醬等各式美食,並將販賣糕餅的盈餘所得全數支持耕心蓮苑辦學。

從「小我」到「大我」,這些女性專心致志的付出,著實在尼泊爾和台灣刻畫了微小卻深刻的影響力。

 

 

[Simplified Chinese]

她们那些微小而深刻的事业

 

根据全球创业观察(GEM)年度报告指出,台湾女性的创业比率在亚洲国家当中相当活跃。以男、女性在新创事业早期投入相比,若以男性为100当比较基准,台湾女性则为67,远高于日本及韩国的3520;英国《独立报》也指出,社会企业的领域中有38%的新创公司由女性领导。

 

这些数据都显示,已有愈来愈多女性选择开创自己的事业,而服务业和社会企业,更是许多女性创业的优先选择。前智利总统蜜雪儿.巴绮蕾(Michelle Bachelet)甚至在2012社会企业国际论坛的致词中提到,「女性是天生的社会企业家。」

 

女性是不是天生的社会企业家?这点还是因人而异,但可以肯定的是,无论是照顾家庭还是投入社会企业,对女性而言都是在小我与大我之间,用「利他」的心态寻找解决问题的方法。或许因为如此,在社会企业这种需要「社会导向」思维的领域,女性往往有特别杰出的表现。

 

台湾七年级女生林念慈,便是其中一位佼佼者。林念慈大学毕业后即投入非营利组织工作,经常带领志工远赴开发中国家服务。在一次的服务经验中,她发现在尼泊尔,女性的生理期往往是羞耻的,甚至被视为「不洁净」。隔年当她赴南印旅游,买了人生第一块布卫生棉时,她便决定回到尼泊尔成立「棉乐悦事」工作坊,希望透过倡导女性制作及使用布卫生棉的过程,让「月事」渐渐成为女孩们的「悦事」。

 

从无到有的创业过程中,林念慈认为最重要的是必须想清楚自己真正想做的事,「要被自己的想法感动」;而一但决定投入,也不用等到去学理财或是想很多之后才开始,「当时的我连缝纫机都不会用。」

 

这个连缝纫机都不太熟悉的年轻女生,带著从KEEP WALKING计划获得的一百万奖金远赴尼泊尔创业,从三名女性员工开始了小小的布卫生棉事业。透过培训当地妇女缝制卫生棉垫,棉乐悦事不仅提供就业机会,也在村落推广生理期的卫教知识,让妇女学习如何照顾自己的身体;她们的棉布也从当地取材,制造符合当地消费水平又高品质的平价产品,希望带给女性舒适、健康的使用经验,目前已累积数千片的产量,不到一年就达损益两平。

 

如今不仅在尼泊尔的村落,在台湾、香港等九个据点都能见到棉乐悦事一片片色彩缤纷的花布,每片都蕴含著对环境的友善与对女性的关怀。

 

就像林念慈一样,三重「耕心莲苑」的诞生,也是缘于创办人生命中偶然的经历。二十多年前,当时担任教职的余素华和同学陈瑞珠一起去三重做家庭访问时,看到许多在街头徘徊、无所事事的学生。当年的三重住着许多北上打拼的小家庭,蓝领阶级居多,而这些家庭的孩子往往放学后就在街上游荡,和其他经济宽裕、放学便去补习班上课的学生相比,学业进度很容易就落后一大截。

 

当时她们心想:我们能为这些孩子做些什么?于是在余素华教书的第一年,她们就在自己家里开始了课后的义务辅导,把家境不好的学生带到家中学习。后来她们透过手边的存款以及银行贷款,凑了一百万当作「办学基金」,就这样在社区里开始了孩子们的课后辅导。

 

耕心莲苑相当注重中华传统文化的伦理与智慧,所以课后积极带着孩子们学习与背诵四书五经,从日常生活中和长辈问候开始,落实孝道、礼节及品格修养,重拾失落的家庭教育,也修复许多家庭的亲子关系。

 

虽然初期一度遭到社区质疑,以为她们要开私家补习班而强力抨击,但看到孩子们日渐改变与成长,社区居民的态度也逐渐软化,甚至出钱出力,要让耕心莲苑持续运作下去。

 

然而读经班采取「不计束脩、随喜付费」的方式,上课的学生又从原先不到十个人一路增加到数百人,使她们财务上逐渐吃紧。为了补贴办学的经费,她们在社区开办一间小食堂,一样采取随喜付费的模式,不过这不仅考验着人性,也深深试验创办人的决心。

 

初期有些人连续数月拿着锅子和大碗来盛菜,装满后却转身就走,让一些志工因为人性的贪婪而失望离去。幸好在几位热心居民的呼朋引伴之下,递补了志工的空缺,而食堂也在2008年金融风暴期间,让许多骤然失业的民众可以在此得到温暖、饱餐一顿。食堂渐渐受到整个社区的支持,不仅有居民帮忙备料、切菜,附近的果菜批发商也会将卖不完的菜送到餐厅,节省他们的成本。

 

如今这个「把企业当做家一样经营」的食堂,已成为读经班办学的经费来源之一;她们也进一步成立「爱一家亲社会企业」,结合社区妈妈们的力量,一起制作美味可口且无食品添加物的核桃糕、凤梨酥、香桩酱等各式美食,并将贩卖糕饼的盈余所得全数支持耕心莲苑办学。

 

从「小我」到「大我」,这些女性专心致志的付出,着实在尼泊尔和台湾刻画了微小却深刻的影响力。

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