When a girl has access to education, the rate of child marriage decreases, early motherhood is avoided, maternal health improves along with the health of entire families, and the gaps in pay narrow as gender equality improves, according to the UN. Girls, and the women they become, have the power to drive positive social change around the world and yet, two-thirds of girls are denied education globally and just three per cent of venture capital funding goes to female entrepreneurs worldwide. It will take as many as 108 years to reach gender parity at this rate.
yher is an Australian-born campaign working to change that. It is part of ygap, a not-for-profit based in Melbourne but operating in Africa, the Pacific and South Asia, that strives to close the gap in unequally distributed opportunities, specifically for women.
The yher campaign, which was launched in 2017, is entirely led by and for women. yher assisted 63 emerging female entrepreneurs and leaders to make sustainable changes in their communities and countries. Some of the innovative, hard-working women the campaign supported with funding, access to training and mentorship include: Lebo who started an initiative to provide shelter and counselling to women and girls who face gender-based violence in South Africa; tech-savvy Jonina in the Asia Pacific who uses drones to provide water and survey infrastructure; and Azwa who is improving the quality of education in Bangladesh by training teachers.
Nearly 850 women have applied to yher seeking support to achieve their dreams of social impact over the last 18 months. That means yher must grow to match their ambition. The campaign aims to draw $500,000 AUD in funding by 30 June to help support more female leaders change the world. Any donations made before or on that date will be tripled, and all are tax-deductible.
Question: What is yher?
Manita Ray: yher is a female-focused program which is specifically designed to empower emerging female leaders in emerging markets. It is a program designed by women for women. Female founders often do not have the same oppoprtunities provided to them as their male counterparts. yher creates an equal platform so female founders can grow and scale their businesses.
Question: What inspired ygap to create the yher campaign?
Manita Ray: We began yher with the aim of creating a more feminine approach to accelerating businesses in emerging markets. One that provides a welcoming space for women to come together, inspire each other, and address the unique challenges female entrepreneurs face. The global ecosystem has been dominated by male-run programs that often fail to attract women and accommodate their needs - of 131 corporate accelerator programs, 87% are run by men. This is just one of the many reasons that globally, female founders only receive 3% of venture capital funding.
We provide an alternative and in doing so, we are shining a light on the outstanding female led social businesses around the world and will continue to shift more support and capital towards helping them grow. Despite raising less, female founders are likely to produce more revenue than their male counterparts. Women are also more likely to invest three times more of their profits back into their family and community.
The yher program has a proven curriculum to help women refine and scale their business. We ensure that yher provides the psychological safety needed to discuss the barriers that are holding them back and develop the strategies, confidence and business acumen they need to grow their ventures. We do this because in the countries where we work, women have often faced violence or are subject to cultural or religious practices that make it difficult for them to let their guard down, share honestly, or learn effectively in the presence of men.
It is our mission to create an equal platform for female founders to launch and grow their social impact businesses. The program is designed to increase confidence, competence and acumen needed to validate and scale a social business and ultimately improve the lives of people in their communities, countries and regions.
We aim to play a significant role in getting more capital to women led social businesses and foster a strong network of female entrepreneurs and people who support them. More broadly, we hope that we can contribute to a thriving ecosystem that creates inspiring female role models for the next generation to aspire to and that the ecosystem is empowered and equipped to provide female entrepreneurs with the support they need to thrive.
Question: What do you hope to achieve with the yher campaign?
Manita Ray: We have two goals, one is short term and the other is long term.
The short term goal:
We have the generous support of a long term benefactor who has offered to triple any donations to reach the gap in our total funding needed to roll out the yher global program for the three regions we will be working in.
We have until June 30th to raise our goal of $500K, with each donation being tripled we believe is achievable.
The long term goal:
We would like to see a global audience recognises that gender is a human issue and backs yher - until it no longer needs to exist.
Question: Can you tell us about some of the women who are seeking support through the yher campaign?
Manita Ray: Muzalema Mwanza was one of the 63 female social impact entrepreneurs who came through ygap's the yher Africa Pilot accelerator in 2018.
Through her venture, Safe Motherhood Alliance, she has developed an innovative baby delivery kit which ensures safe conditions at the time of childbirth. Through the development of this kit Muzalema has not only offered training and employment opportunities, she has also assisted in delivering over 1,000 babies. That's one woman impacting over 1000 mothers and their babies, and she has only just began her social impact journey towards a world free of avoidable deaths related to childbirth. Muzalema had a solution to a local problem, all she needed was someone to believe in her and back her.
This is just one entrepreneur's story of the success that comes with backing local change, there are 453 more stories at ygap.
Question: How can Australians support the yher campaign?
Manita Ray: We would love to see women, men and people of all gender recognising the need to "Support her to create a better us".
They can do this:
By going to ygap.org/yhercampaign and making a donation, their donation will be tripled for the yher Appeal.
By spreading the word saying that "I back her #yher" and sharing the campaign with their community.
Interview by Brooke Hunter