Young Egyptians have an amazing potential that is not yet being utilized. We have a well-established business sector, but with the establishment and success comes an aversion to trying new things. To innovating. While the business sector has made incredible impact on my country, there are still gaps. Gaps in jobs and gaps in services that would allow our most marginalized citizens to escape poverty. This is where entrepreneurs, especially young ones, can help.
As urban India strives to emerge as the next superpower, rural India continues to suffer in the absence of access to adequate health and hygiene facilities.
Hygiene and health go hand-in-hand. Maintaining proper hygiene is indispensible for maintaining good health and this holds true for women undergoing menstruation. Although menstruation is a natural process, there are several misconceptions and practices, which sometimes results in adverse health outcomes. In India, the problem is much more prevalent and accentuated in rural parts of the country. Lack of awareness and the stigma around menstruation causes women to refrain from seeking medical advice. Serious infections are often left untreated. Women across our country are forced into silence, and thus, into unhealthy behaviors.
In order to create the necessary behavior change needed to ensure healthy menstruation practices we strictly do not touch the myths and taboos connected with menstruation. Given that many of these taboos are connected to local cultures and religions, addressing these taboos would create a barrier to open discussion as target communities could feel under attack. Forming a positive discussion around how menstruation is normal, can be clean, and providing multiple options for sanitary pads for these women is far more impactful than shame.
The sustainable development goals (SDGs) set forth by the UN in September have boldly shaped the development agenda, and rightly so. Major problems still persist: the Global Monitoring Report forecasts that 700 million people remain living on less than $1.90 a day in 2015, marginalized populations lack necessary access to crucial services, and governments struggle to reach these ultra-poor communities living in remote corners of the world.
The expectation is that the market will provide the solution and the “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” did not materialize across a number of important sectors like health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and other services that have transformational effects on people’s lives. Without them, the world’s poorest cannot take advantage of economic opportunities and escape poverty.
Alina is launching a venture to train and match new graduates with startups in Mexico. Marcia is piloting cost-effective and ecological housing solutions in Mozambique. Ahmed is working to sell oven shelving units to rural women in Egypt so they can increase their income.
All these social entrepreneurs are thousands of miles apart from each other, in different countries, in different regions, in different sectors and different time-zones. Despite these differences however, they often face similar challenges and obstacles in scaling their business operations. Many find interim solutions to some of these challenges, while others simply cannot overcome them and, despite their potential, are unable to become viable. If these social entrepreneurs have the opportunity to share their experiences with one another, the solutions social entrepreneurs develop can work across boundaries, countries, and even sectors.
“Every time I see a problem, I create a social business to solve it,” renowned Nobel Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said to an overflowing room at the World Bank Group’s Headquarters in Washington, DC this summer. “Set up a social business.”
“The poor are like Bonsai trees,” the founder of Grameen Bank explained, “When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch-deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on."
Earlier this year, we launched our eLearning course for social enterprises in January with a second installment in May. Social enterprises from across the globe – from places we didn’t even think we could reach – applied. So we began to wonder, who are these social enterprises? What are their models? What do they need most to reach the most marginalized populations? So I sat down with Charles Njemo Batumani and Arun Kumar Das, two social entrepreneurs who finished the first installment of our eLearning course in January to see what they’ve done, where they see their enterprises going and why eLearning was a way for them to improve their social enterprise. Charles is building affordable housing for low and middle income earners in Limbe, Cameroon while Arun is developing a natural plant product to combat malnutrition in Odisha, India.
After a day of discussions on how to scale social enterprise innovations to improve health outcomes during an event hosted by the World Bank Group’s (WBG) Innovation Labs and Health Global Practice on June 8th, one clear message emerged – public-private dialogue and collaboration, as well as collaboration between the public sector, the private sector and multilateral organizations such as the WBG is required to reach those living at the last mile.
A prime example of this need can be seen in a mobile phone health clinic program developed by VillageReach, a social enterprise working to provide access to quality health care to underserved communities through an integrated approach.