12 Awesome Ventures That Help Asian Women
Empowered women empower women. We're celebrating 12 social enterprises from across the region that benefit women and young girls. #YouGoGirl
These social enterprises recognise the challenges women face and, through tailor-made programmes, address women's struggles with love, care and hope. From sanitation to education the goal is the same: a better, brighter future, for the women in Asia. Because the truth is, helping women helps everyone.
1. Du’Anyam Indonesia
Nusa Tenggara Timur has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia due to poverty and lack of education. At this Indonesia-founded social enterprise, women of childbearing age in Nusa Tenggara Timur are economically empowered through wicker weaving cooperatives: when not working in the fields, women can weave in their spare time (which they already do) and earn extra money. The money goes into the cooperative fund, which help cover expenses related to prenatal care and delivery. Du'Anyam also collaborates with Indonesian health workers to educate women on safe prenatal health practices.
By being an ethical middleman for embroiderers of the age-old tradition of ‘chikankari’ – a form of embroidery believed to have originated from India’s Mughal Empire (16th to 19th Century), Threadcraft India ensures a justly paid livelihood for the labouring embroiderers while keeping this artisanal craft alive. Through Threadcraft India, the embroiderers are ensured a fixed price on a regular basis. Benefits are also put in place: free eye check up camps are regularly conducted for the artisans, as are spectacles provided, if required.
3. A-Changin Singapore
Through their network of modern alteration studios in prime retail locations in Singapore, A-changin practices inclusive employment for women in need. Mature women, single mothers, persons with disability and out-of-work women receive training and access to employment opportunities. The training helps the women achieve higher productivity, and quality workmanship and rewards, while flexible work arrangements enable the women to have better work-life balance.
4. Viet Artisans Vietnam
This social enterprise trains and provides jobs for rural and disadvantaged women in the Mekong Delta, giving their children a chance at a future. Before joining Viet Artisans, the rural women – aged 18 to 40 – work in physically taxing and financially unreliable odd jobs. Viet Artisans provides a safe and comfortable working environment, along with a living wage and scholarships for the women’s children.
5. Nusantara Development Initiatives (NDI) Indonesia
By empowering rural Indonesian women to solar lamp entrepreneurs, “Ibu Rumah Terang” (Mistress of the Bright House”), NDI brings light to rural households that have limited access to electricity. With solar-powered lamps, children of these households can study and play in safe environments, which would lay the foundation for the empowerment of future generations. Read our interview with NDI co-founder Fairoz Ahmad.
6. Bettr Barista Coffee Academy Singapore
At the core of this academy is a six-month programme for disadvantaged women and youth in the Singapore community. The programme goes beyond work skills: it combines professional coffee education with physical training, life and emotional management skills. At the end of the course, participants can go on to paid attachments, job placements and mentorship opportunities.
7. Emerge Lanka Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s Emerge enables change by working with girls who have survived abuse, abuse often inflicted by their own families. Many of the girls aged nine to 18-years-old have babies fathered by their abusers and are shut out of their community. One of Emerge’s programmes teaches the girls to make beaded jewellery, and then sells it for them. The necklaces and bracelets from Emerge make great gifts. Apart from helping them earn an income it acts a creative therapy, and makes them feel empowered and confident.
8. Design Up Asia Singapore
Singapore-founded Design Up Asia exists to help women who are sole breadwinners of families with children under 18 years old. These women are generally without access to formal employment. Through the sales of affordable and desirable handmade jewellery on the site, the women get flexible employment opportunities to be able to provide for their families from home. More importantly, they get to care for their school-aged children.
9. Freedom Cups Asia-wide
In Freedom Cups’ one-for-one model, every reusable menstrual cup purchased allows them to give a menstrual cup to a woman in an underprivileged community. The use of these cups not only helps women in developing communities gain access to proper sanitation for their periods, it also decreases non-bio-degradable waste in developed communities. Freedom Cups have so far benefitted as many as 800 women in rural communities in The Philippines and trafficked women and abused domestic workers communities in Singapore.
10. Kumnit Thmey Cambodia
This Cambodia-based social enterprise’s aims are to provide employment to survivors of human trafficking and develop these survivors’ literacy and life skills for long-term sustainability. They do this in four ways: instilling a saving scheme, providing interest-free loans, profit-sharing from the high quality gifts made, and evening classes.
11. Hello Flowers Singapore
Hello Flowers is not just about helping women, although women play a big part of it.. Set up by a trained social worker, Hello Flowers marries the therapeutic effect of flower arrangement with a flexible work schedule. Such arrangement accommodates individuals (like those from families with violence, women and men) who cannot commit to full-time work.
12. The Nail Social Singapore
This socially conscious nail salon “trains marginalized Singaporean women – single mothers, ex-offenders, and those from low-income households – and provides them with work opportunities. It’s a win-win for everyone,” says founder Cheryl Ou. This arrangement helps women become self-sufficient.
Interested in socially conscious living in Asia? Check out Asia For Good's social enterprise directory.
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