Our Fellows

2012 Selection

Alice Freitas

Founder & CEO, RedeAsta, Ashoka Fellow and Avina Leader

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sector: Livelihoods

Model: Go-to-Market Strategies for a Direct Sales Network

Working primarily with women-owned enterprises in the lower income segment, Alice Freitas has created Brazil’s first direct sales network that addresses the issues of economic empowerment and social equality. Enterprises at the bottom of the pyramid are most often handicapped and intimidated by the challenges of large-scale distribution and the competition in the open market economy. In order to create a level playing field, Rede Asta engages with about 600 marginalized producers, 93% of whom are women, through access to markets, know-how, and facilitative networks. The last involves the creation of a network of trained sales agents equipped with an intimate understanding of market realities, producer profiles and the history and social impact of the product. This, in turn, opens up a direct communication channel between the producers and consumers.  Moreover, 97% of the 650-700 re-sellers are women and 86% of the RedeAsta team are women. Beginning in 2008 with sales of BRL 600 per month, Rede Asta presently grosses monthly average sales of BRL 50,000. In five years it aims to support 85 producer cooperatives comprising 1,400 artisans, generating average gross monthly sales of BRL 300,000.

The organisation’s goal is to create a brand that spurs consumption patterns to fast track economic inclusion for women and replicate the model throughout Brazil and beyond.


Safeena Hussain

Founder & CEO, Educate Girls

Location: Pali district, Rajasthan, India

Sector: Education for the Girl Child

Model: Public-Private Partnership

The first WCM Fellow from India, Safeena Hussain, launched Educate Girls with the vision to create a sustainable model for the education of the girl child in government schools in India. Gender disparity remains a significant barrier to education across India, particularly in rural areas, with more than 3.7 million girl children out of school in India today. Even with the Government of India’s Right to Education Act , passed in 2009, there remain 26 districts across the country, termed critical gender gap districts. Nine of them are in Rajasthan, where Safeena started her work in 2008. By leveraging existing community and government resources, the model promotes the concept of community ownership to improve school infrastructure and advocates for the rights of the girl child and give her a voice. It serves as a catalyst for sustainable, scalable and holistic reform. Educate Girls’ focuses on enrolment, retention and increased academic performance for girl children. Team Balika, a cadre of village-based youth leaders, works in the schools as well as village communities spreading awareness and in turn boosting enrolment, retention and learning outcomes for all girls. The model works on orchestrated synergies - top-down with government officials at different levels and bottom-up with villagers and village committees. Alongside partnering with government, private sector funding and strategic alliances remain crucial to the expansion and development of the Educate Girls program.

In the short span of five years, Educate Girls has reached out to 5,500 schools, enrolled 52,000 girl dropouts back into school and impacted the lives of 200,000 children in Rajasthan.


2013 Selection

Panmela Castro

Founder: Nami Rede Feminista de Arte Urbana

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sector: Women’s Rights

Model: Activism through Art

Panmela Castro is one of Brazil’s top female graffiti artists who has gained international attention for her activism through art as well as the work she does with the NGO that she started in 2010, called Nami Rede Feminista de Arte Urbana (‘RedeNami’), a feminist collective of urban artists. Rede Nami’s mission is to contribute to gender equality through graffiti arts, with a specific focus on addressing violence against women. Rede Nami trains and prepares artists and art educators to respond to prejudice and racial, ethnic, class, religious and sexual orientation discrimination. Its activities involve training and art workshops; running projects, performing cultural events for civil and public partnerships, and organizing seminars and artistic productions. All of its activities seek to defend and promote women’s rights. Agência Nami Grafitti is Rede Nami’s social business, which relies on urban arts professionals, experts in gender and women’s rights and capable artists to run graffiti workshops, deploy thematic walls and lead seminars. In addition, the agency contributes to Rede Nami’s financial sustainability. Medium size companies, public entities and individuals are amongst Agência Nami’s main clients. Rede Nami has the potential to positively impact thousands of women, men and youth across Brazil through their socially empowering street art interventions. It also provides a platform to economically empower women urban artists by providing them with important spaces of exchange, professional capacity building and opportunities to sell and publicize their work through Rede Nami’s network.

The WCM Fellowship to Panmela will support Rede Nami to become a financially sustainable organization with a solid business model by building a network of partners that could train at least 1,400 women and men in preventing gender-based violence each year across several Brazilian cities.


Maria Beatriz ‘Bia’ Kern

Founder & Director: Mulher em Construção

Location: Canoas, Rio Grande do Sol, Brazil

Sector: Livelihoods

Model: Gender perspective in skills development

Bia Kern is the founder and Director of Mulher em Construção (MEC), an organization that launched in 2006 in Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul in the South of Brazil to train and qualify women to work in civil construction with the aim of social and economic empowerment. MEC’s approach involves building the capacity and professional development of women and connecting them to the job market in this sector. MEC offers courses and workshops to women from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds in areas such as brick-laying, ceramics, electrical equipment, among others. MEC also is one of the only organizations in Brazil that takes a gender perspective in training women as civil construction workers––one that integrates trainings in citizenship, generates entrepreneurship with technical and vocational skills training for low-income women. Thus MEC has an opportunity to tap into the uncovered demand in construction for skilled labor and, simultaneously, advocate for women's rights. The organization is already participating in public biddings and there is an opportunity for it to show how empowered women can contribute to civic resilience through urban development. MEC is also setting up the first professional school in Brazil to train low-income women in construction skills for future stable employment.

The WCM Fellowship to Bia Kern will support MEC to become a financially sustainable organization in the construction sector. In three years, MEC wants to replicate its model across Brazil and reach at least 2,000 women per year.


Neelam Chhiber

Co-founder & MD Industree Crafts Private Limited

Location: Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Sector: Rural Handicrafts

Model: Hybrid Social Enterprise

Neelam Chhiber co-founded the for-profit Industree Crafts Private Limited (ICPL) as a social business, where the profits were ploughed back into production and the skilling of artisans. The non-profit arm, Industree Crafts Foundation (later renamed Industree Foundation), was established in August 2000 to focus the organization’s work with rural producers on design development, and technical and skill initiatives in the natural fibre sector. In time, the Foundation’s mandate broadened to include other crafts as well. The Foundation also sought to build up the production base and enable artisans to become owners of their enterprises. In a nutshell, Industree is a hybrid social enterprise that works on two levels -- it supports the livelihoods of rural producers and agricultural workers in the natural fiber crafts sector across India by manufacturing contemporary products, mainly home accessories; and connects rural producers to urban markets, through the company’s high-end retail stores across the country – Mother Earth. In the last fiscal of 2013, the retail venture targeted a revenue of Rs 30 crore.Ninety- percent of the more than 10,000 producers engaged presently with Industree are women. The WCM Fellowship aims to support Neelam’s goal of scaling the Foundation’s capacity-building initiatives for sustainable livelihoods, mainly for women artisans. This also ties in well with the Government of India’s skill development mission of the 11th and 12th Plan periods.

The Foundation targets skills development and capacity building of 200,000 artisans over the next 10 years. The Fellowship’s key focus thereby will be to help the Foundation create strong, high quality training systems; develop a sustainable funding model; enhance network linkages and strengthen the monitoring and evaluation systems, which will include assessment tools to measure the initiative’s impact on women’s empowerment.


Chandra Shekhar Ghosh

Founder & CEO, Bandhan

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Sector: Microfinance

Model:  Microfinance-plus

C.S. Ghosh founded Bandhan that was set up with the dual objective of poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment. The model incorporates two entities. Through its non-banking financial company (NBFC), Bandhan Financial Services Pvt Ltd (BFSPL) is bringing financial stability to poor women through micro-loans in the 22 Indian states and one Union Territory in which it operates. To date, it has reached out to 4.8 million disadvantaged women.  Bandhan-Konnagar, the non-profit arm of the organization, aims at fostering a deeper systemic development by focusing on ultra-poor women (or the ‘hardcore poor’, such as destitute or homeless women), who fall outside the lending net of most microfinance institutions (MFIs). Through its ‘credit plus approach’, it brings them on par with those to whom MFIs and banks will give credit. Bandhan-Konnagar lends muscle to the women’s financial advancement through community-based programs targeted at education, health, and livelihoods.

The WCM Fellowship to C. S. Ghosh will support Bandhan-Konnagar’s expansion plan for the next three years, with a goal of reaching 10 states covering 2,000,000 households through five community development programs. The key focus of this Fellowship will be to strengthen the organization’s communication strategy, improve its use of technology, enhance the networking and fundraising capacities, review its monitoring and evaluation systems and advance its women empowerment programs. 


How we select WomenChangeMakers’ Fellows

WomenChangeMakers’ nominators in each country of operation identify potential Fellows and refer them to us. The candidates are then carefully evaluated and tested against a carefully developed criteria, through a series of interviews and tests to ensure that the selected social entrepreneurs and their projects are relevant to our mission.

Social entrepreneurs do not  apply directly to become a WomenChangeMakers’ Fellow.

We invite non-governmental organizations working in the field on women’s issues who wish to know more about nominating Fellows to contact us.


Our Selection Criteria

The potential Fellows are people who are aiming to scale and/or replicate their project and who are looking for help to do so, i.e. with a basic interest on their part to become engaged with WomenChangeMakers.

 Women’s empowerment and progress: Candidates need to be heading a confirmed and successful project for the empowerment of women to create an enabling environment and/or lifting the barriers to women’s emancipation. They must be active in one of the following areas-

  • access to education and training;
  • access to health care or improvement of health services for women;
  • promotion of women’s social and political leadership;
  • protection of women’s dignity and integrity and prevention of sexual and other forms of targeted violence;
  • access to economic independence and empowerment.

Inflection point: Candidates need to be at an inflection point; their programs should be  proven and tested as successful and efficient, and may already have been approached by or included in other organizations. They must be at a level where they have a need to scale or replicate and grow. The selected Fellows have been awarded recognition by cornerstone institutions in the field of social entrepreneurship such as Ashoka, the Schwab Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, Avina etc.

Systemic change: The project ideas need to be structured in a systematic way and address the root causes of targeted problems, rather than its symptoms. They should have a strong, systematic impact demonstrated by the number of women’s lives changed, in a sustainable way alongside impact on legislation at the regional, national or international levels. At the same time, they should prove to have had an impact in the collective mind and social doings of the communities they act upon.

Social impact: The project ideas need to have the potential to create a substantial social impact and transform the lives of many. At selection stage, it needs to have already demonstrated a social impact with potential for growth.

Sustainability and scalability: The project ideas need to include a critical path to scale including strategies to build sustainable, long-term economic models.

Independence : The organisation should be independent as far as secularity and governmental control is concerned.


Our Selection Requirements

Entrepreneurial qualities : "A new idea only has power in the hands of a true entrepreneur". WomenChangeMakers looks for individuals with a proven track record of entrepreneurship, a vision and the determination to reach it by any means.

Creativity : Social entrepreneurs must have the capacity to adjust to changing environments and come up with creative solutions to reach their vision in spite of obstacles.

Leadership qualities : WomenChangeMakers identifies role models for their communities. Social entrepreneurs should empower people in their networks to become changemakers.

Personal values : These will be measured based on the deep and consistent commitment to equal rights and opportunities between men and women.

Ethical fibre and integrity : This will be investigated through due diligence and evaluation of entrepreneurs' track records.



How we support WomenChangeMakers’ Fellows

WomenChangeMakers offers a full range of tools to its social entrepreneur Fellow to achieve growth. As per their specific needs, they choose what type of support and tools they require.

Consultancy & Training with Partners : WomenChangeMakers provides access for social entrepreneurs in its Fellowship to professionals who can help them address key issues needed to successfully scale and/or replicate their project. These consultancies and trainings are delivered by partners of WomenChangeMakers, specialized namely in the following areas:

Business Management - Defining growth, development and a strategy to implement them, including funding strategies.

Human Resources - Team building, management skills, leadership training and succession planning.

Networking - WomenChangeMakers’ fellows will be connected with like-minded individuals in their own countries and beyond. They will be able to share ideas, advise each other and gather precious information.

Legal Issues

Public Relations, Marketing and Communication

Monitoring and Evaluation


WomenChangeMakers Corporate Support Network : The WomenChangeMakers Support Network is a community of successful business people, entrepreneurs, senior executives, investment bankers, venture capitalists, and consultants who share our beliefs and engage with WomenChangeMakers’ Fellows, committing time and resources to support their work.


Network & Social Entrepreneurs’ Fellowship :  WomenChangeMakers  provides all the benefits from being part of a network of social entrepreneurs which  exchanges  best  practices, experiences, market information and more. This takes place in the form of meetings and a virtual community platform.


Financial Support : WomenChangeMakers awards financial support to its Fellows, principally in the form of a stipend (salary) to the social entrepreneur him/herself or to a key person leading the transition. The aim is to enable the social entrepreneur and his/her team to take the project to the next level of growth.






WCM Achievements Jul-Dec 2014
The second semester evaluation of the WomenChangeMakers’ (WCM) program in 2014...
Womanity Partners Radio Nisaa and Educate Girls honored by esteemed Schwab and Skoll Foundations.
The Womanity Foundation saw two of its partners receive considerable recognitions...
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The WCM team
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