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What Young Entrepreneurs Worldwide Are Doing To Alleviate Poverty, Hunger & More

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By Adedoyin Adedeji and Ravi Karkara:

entrepreneurs_2Entrepreneurship means different things to different people; some imagine tech geniuses with Silicon Valley startups, while others picture small business owners opening up their shop doors on Main Street. Ultimately, entrepreneurship encompasses these and many other business ventures that share a commitment to turning an idea into a profitable business. Entrepreneurship is much broader than the creation of a new business venture, it is about imagining new ways to solve problems and create added value. Enabling youth to enterprise is an employment strategy that leads to economic self-sufficiency and stability. It is a powerful instrument to create jobs and new value by designing and implementing a new process or creating new products or market. Investing in youth entrepreneurship can advance and find innovative solutions to realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Youth Entrepreneurship has gained prominence in the UN system, the UN Secretary General’s five-year Action Agenda includes focus on youth. On doing so, the Secretary-General called for the development of a United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP) to help bolster the work of UN entities on youth development issues. He also proclaimed on World Youth Skills Day,

“Skills development reduces poverty and better equips young people to find decent jobs. It triggers a process of empowerment and self-esteem that benefits everyone. And it strengthens youth capacity to help address the many challenges facing society, moving us closer to ending poverty hunger, injustice and environmental degradation.”

This shows the urgent importance of involving youths in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Youth Entrepreneurship in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Below are examples of how youth entrepreneurship can lead to the achievement the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal #1

To end poverty everywhere in all its forms, youths need to enterprise, especially with the next youth bulge in Africa and Asia, using all available human resources especially young men and women will lead to creation of more jobs as well as creating added value (creating new work from old work). For instance, Daniel Serres started D.A. Socks because he realised the kind of socks his peers were wearing and figured he could enterprise with it; proving that his immediate environment had enterprise potentials. Given this scenario, creating awareness of entrepreneurial potentials in the society, organising activities and providing resources for young people to become entrepreneurs all play a vital role in achieving the SDGs.

Goal #2

Young men and women entrepreneurs can get involved in their local communities by raising awareness, creating food programmes and involving in volunteer activities to ensure nutrition and food security hence greatly minimising or completely eradicating hunger. Enterprising can also reduce the Dutch diseases in affected countries; a typical example being agricultural enterprises run by youths. Certain programmes in some African countries support this; such as the Youth in Agricultural Trade and Enterprise (YATE) in Kenya which provides business models for agriculture-business. For example, four smart entrepreneurs in the process of solving the tomato problem in Africa.

Goal #3

Young entrepreneurs learn more on health and sanitation and the use of modern methods to develop instructional sessions focused on individual and community health. Consequently, the acquired knowledge can be used to educate the community on health tips, to minimise and possibly avoid an outbreak of diseases. Having this form of knowledge can lead to innovations that will impact the community. For instance; Wang Shirui cofounded Medlinkers at the age of 28. He said, given the shortage of doctors in China, he decided to help existing doctors be more efficient. GlobalMed at Columbia University, a group of young girls that goes to Uganda to engage, educate and empower women on health and wellness.

Goal #4

To achieve education for all (both informal and formal education) young students can create informal classes for their peers who are unable to attend schools; this peer-teaching and learning approach may become a type of school or learning institution in itself, thereby spreading the awareness of the importance of education. The IamtheCODE is an Africa-Led global movement that teaches adolescent girls to code as a way to building their creativity capacity and helping children and youths to realise their potential. These girls then become entrepreneurs and teach other young girls how to code and also develop applications for firms to be effective and efficient.

Goal #5

Mogul is an award-winning technology platform led by young women Tiffany Pham, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, that enables women worldwide to share ideas, solicit advice and access consent based on their personal interest, it’s a hub that reaches out to 18.6 million women per week from 196 countries and 30,470 cities. NextGenMen is a product of three young individuals that came together to educate and conduct men’s health and wellbeing innovation. These are good examples of how empowered young men and women can advance health programmes, and continuously improve training involving not just health safety tips but signs of common and serious diseases (especially the contagious ones) will ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all.

Goal #6

Youths studying health care, environmental science, and other sciences can develop programmes like the University of New Hampshire student initiative that recycled 57,000 pounds of trash into treasure worth $11,750. They also develop educative classes to teach fellow youths on health and environmental care.

Goal #7

To ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all:
Youth-Led Sustainable Building Project based on the island of Molokai, they focus developing indigenous educational system by revitalising natural and cultural resources, also to perpetuate traditional knowledge and stewardship while evolving with modern technology. Having youth led projects in indigenous communities is the first step in ensuring sustainable and modern energy for all.

Goal #8

To promote economic growth, there needs to be a creation of jobs: Stefanie Botelho founder of Fitzroy Toys in 2014 crafted finger puppets out of felt, glitter, and glue, and sold them to her classmates when she was in fourth grade and now is creating employment via enterprising. The International Campaign for Youth Employment Decade is a public-private initiative launched in June 2013, from the civil society, with an objective to generate an international movement of reflection, thought, debate and action, that provides ideas, content and solutions for the unemployment situation or the situation of no decent employment that millions of youths are experiencing in hundreds of places across the world.

1M1B is another good initiative that focuses on innovation frameworks aimed at enhancing employment, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, teamwork and effective communications skills. The innovation camp is conducted face to face over a period of three to five days on site and helps participants first identify a purpose and then solve problems that are important to their immediate environment and society.

Goal #9

Alok Shetty. Source: Twitter.

Infrastructure – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation: Bhumiputra Architecture owned by Alok Shetty is focused on improving the quality of life in the slums. After returning to India in 2012, he worked with Bangalore residents to overhaul their homes. His designs were unusual, made from recycled and readily available materials and built with a jack that could prop up the house to avoid floods and rat infestations. Some 50 homes were built for 200 people. Now, Shetty is onto his next project: building 600 homes for 2,400 people in the city of Belgaum.

Goal #10

Inequality – Reduce inequality within and among countries: Twenty-eight-year-old Maddie Bradshaw founded M3 Girls Design. She designs and sells thousands of snap caps, colourful bottle caps that can be worn as charms and necklaces, a clear example of youth enterprising as a way for more young entrepreneurs to reduce inequality among countries.

Goal #11

Simbarashe Mhuriro. Source: Twitter.

Habitation – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable: 31-year-old Simbarashe Mhuriro founded Oxygen Africa in 2009 as an investment advisory company to help facilitate foreign investors in Zimbabwe. In 2013, Oxygen Africa partnered with Swiss-based Meeco Group, a renewable energy company, to establish Oursun Energy Zimbabwe – a joint venture Independent Power Producer that specialises in the development, building, owning, and operating of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) energy projects in Zimbabwe; this project has certainly contributed to the city and the country being safer, given the importance of energy and power in the society.

Goal #12

Consumption – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns: An example found in ‘The Agricpreneur‘ – a new breed of young entrepreneurs combining their love of farming and agriculture with acquired professional business approach. Donald Byamugisha focuses on sustainable consumption and production patterns using agriculture and farming.

Goal #13

Source: Twitter.

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts: Raquel Rosenberg from Brazil uses dance to make climate change policy Raquel knows how to make climate policy interesting for young people. Frustration with the lack of progress on climate change prompted Raquel to start her own civil society organisation Engajamundo to inform, empower and engage Brazilian youth in international climate, social development, and gender forums. She has helped to bring Brazil’s flash mob trend to the UN climate negotiations.

Goal #14

Marine-ecosystems – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development: The business times records Brayden Kelley who won a local competition for young entrepreneurs in pitching his product and qualified for a national event but also hope to peddle some more in tackling a potentially lucrative market for fishing gear and look for better ways to reduce over fishing and pollution of water, a typical example of ways to conserve the ecosystem.

Goal #15

Ecosystems – Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss: Charles Batte founded Tree Adoption Uganda (TAU) to help young entrepreneurs set up businesses. Charles got a young entrepreneur award from Unilever because of his focus on tackling unemployment and deforestation. TAU aims to empower 150 women and 50 men enabling them to start their own business, however, planting 200 trees in the communities.

Goal #16

Timothy Hwang. Source: Twitter.

Institutions – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all level: Timothy Hwang is 23 years of age. He is the co-founder of FiscalNote, they analyse data gleaned from state statutes and Congressional regulations to court rulings to discern likely outcomes for pending legislation and rulings. He and his two fellow co-founders pooled together $25,000 and started FiscalNote from a motel.

Goal #17

Sustainability – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development: Youth Challenge International is a youth-led initiative that patterns with local communities to encourage youth innovation that in turn drives positive change and develop creative, market-ready solutions that catapult youth around the world to succeed and prosper. Youth Ki Awaaz is an Indian English-language social enterprise blog founded in 2008. An emerging online news and views platform, and a pioneer in collaborative journalism, it has emerged as one of India’s most read youth opinion websites.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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