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Ashoka Arab World Celebrates Young ChangemakHERS Transformative Journey and Elects Winners

Ashoka represents the world’s largest network for social entrepreneurs, with more than 3,600 fellows effecting change around the globe and over 100 spread across the Arab region. Parallel to its mission of electing leading social entrepreneurs, Ashoka is dedicated to shaping a world where Everyone is a Changemaker (EACH) – one in which youth and adults alike are empowered to develop creative solutions to the pressing social problems that surround them. 

Ashoka Young Changemakers form a carefully selected network of young people who have found their power to create change for the good of all, and who are leading and inciting passion in their peers to help create a true EACH world.

With the support of the British Council's Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) programme, Ashoka Arab World has partnered with Red Ochre - based in the UK - in a transformative journey targeting young women between the ages of 16 and 21 in Egypt. The British Council's DICE program is aimed at supporting the development of creative and social enterprises in both the UK and Egypt. The programme is taking an innovative, cross-sectoral approach, drawing on UK expertise in the social economies by supporting collaborative projects between UK social enterprises and Egyptian partners that seek to empower women and girls, foster youth employment, and support the inclusion of marginalized groups. The start of this collaboration also coincided with Ashoka’s launch of the Women’s Initiative for Social Entrepreneurship (WISE) – a movement geared toward elevating women social innovators around the world. WISE targets both established female entrepreneurs and aspiring young women.

Over the course of several months, Ashoka Arab World and Red Ochre co-created a comprehensive capacity-building and reflective experience, empowering young women change-leaders with the skills needed to distinguish themselves as creative individuals in the job market and enter into the social entrepreneurship ecosystem with innovative solutions to social problems. An initial group of 60 candidates were selected to participate in the first phase of the competition based on their demonstrated passion for a particular challenge in their communities, their leadership and teambuilding skills, and their histories of creativity and changemaking. These inspiring young innovators hailed from 14 governorates across Egypt.

"The ChangemakeHERS programme has been a remarkably successful programme to support young females to make a creative and social impact in Egypt," said Uday Thakkar, Founder and Managing Director of Red Ochre, who led the workshops with the Young ChangemakHERS candidates. "The 60 participants turned up with very impressive ideas, or early stage projects that would impact on their communities or other young people. I was taken aback by the quality and range of ideas."

"Since it opened its doors in 1938, the British Council in Egypt has been connecting our cultures to create opportunities especially for young people, women and people from marginalized communities,” said Alex Lambert, Deputy Director of the British Council in Egypt. “In 2018, we stepped up our work in a new and emerging area – the creative and social enterprise sectors. 

Over the past 20-25 years, the UK has focused on them significantly, and they now represent over GBP100 Billion annually, resulting in a lot of experience and lessons to share. Through the Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies Programme, we are working with partners to help support young entrepreneurs with social or creative focuses across Egypt to thrive, by providing them with opportunities to build their skills, knowledge, connections and experience through a wide range of activities. The Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies Programme is positively benefiting communities across the country and we hope it will contribute towards a more equitable and inclusive society.”

Since the official launch of the Young ChangemakHERS journey in July, participants have worked with Ashoka and Red Ochre to enhance their problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities, learn more about the social entrepreneurship sector, and acquire the necessary skills to successfully design and implement impactful initiatives.

The candidates have now been filtered down to 15 young women with outstanding plans for initiatives addressing challenges in their local communities. "I was hugely impressed by the enthusiasm and energy that the girls brought to the programme," said Thakkar. "They were willing to learn new concepts and were up for trying out new tools and techniques to improve themselves and their entrepreneurial ideas. It has been a privilege to facilitate this group and it is a huge shame that only some will win awards. As far as I am concerned, they are all winners, and Egypt should be proud to have such amazing young citizens."

“It has been inspiring to witness the journey these young women have embarked on,” said Iman Bibars, Regional Director of Ashoka Arab World and Vice President of Ashoka Global. “We had the opportunity to work closely with a diverse group of young women stemming from different governorates, each with their own vision of a better future for their local community and each brimming with such immense passion to create change and urge others around them to do the same. It has been a true privilege to watch them grow. Too often, young women are discouraged from taking paths toward leadership. We hope that the stories of these participants show the world the incredible power of young women and encourage other young women both in Egypt and in other parts of the Arab world to tap into their leadership and changemaking abilities.”

In addition to Red Ochre and the British Council, Ashoka has collaborated with several strategic partners to enrich the journey and expose participants to central players in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem - partners who, like Ashoka, believe in creating an EACH world.

Strategic partners include MBC AL AMAL, KMT House, and Entreprenelle.

On November 30, Ashoka is inviting its community partners as well as participants and their parents to celebrate the achievements of the Young ChangemakHERS transformative journey and competition. Leaders in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem will be also invited to serve as judges for the final pitches and help Ashoka and Red Ochre select the top three Young ChangemakHERS. Winners will gain access to a financial award, strategic mentorship, fundraising support, media visibility, and more opportunities to grow their initiatives.

Red Ochre is a pioneering support organization specializing in the social and creative enterprise sector. Red Ochre has advised government departments and

agencies in numerous countries on understanding and developing a social enterprise.

Well known for its accessible approach, underlined by its unique blend of practical knowledge and depth of experience, Red Ochre has assisted thousands of individuals,

enterprises, and charities to realise their potential through its training, mentoring, and coaching activities across 18 countries for almost 20 years.

For the last 36 years, Ashoka has been at the forefront of finding and supporting unique social entrepreneurs and innovators, with a track record for strong female Fellow

representation. With 15 years of experience in the social entrepreneurship field in the Arab World and an extensive network of innovators to draw from, Ashoka is uniquely positioned to identify and support young women innovators through this competition.

The British Council is the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities. The Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) programme is an ambitious initiative aimed at supporting the development of creative and social enterprises in the UK and five key emerging countries: Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and South Africa. Aiming to foster inclusive growth and progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, the programme is taking an innovative, cross sectoral approach that draws on UK expertise in the creative and social economies.

Photo credit: Ashoka Arab World, and the photo was taken during the launch of the ChangeMakHERS competition in July.

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