BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT
“Be the change you want to see in the world”, said Mahatma Gandhi.
The more I reflect upon this, I realize that the greatest challenge in creating change in the community is self. Self here means the self in people/human beings. The difficulty in changing people’s attitudes, beliefs and systems is a big barrier to creating change. An example is the patriarchal system that has been in existence for generations, and which defines masculinity and femininity in ways that are sometimes harmful to both parties (men and women). Yet, getting people to change their attitudes and actions, which are informed by patriarchy, is a tall order. Well meaning individuals are not left out too, because they don’t reflect on what informs their actions, and end up causing harm, by for example, limiting the chances of a girl/woman, without realizing it.
In addition, rules and laws of countries, especially fledging democracies, also act as impediments to creating change in the community. Sometimes, progressive ideas are scuttled by government machinations because they fear that the people may advance and become too knowledgeable to be governed (Read misgoverned)
However, the greatest obvious challenge is poverty, because idealism and poverty are strange bed fellows. It would be too much to expect someone lacking the basic needs (food, water, shelter) to stand their ground in the face of questionable magnanimity. Self actualization can only be realized where basic needs have been met.
It is with this thinking that I have ventured into the arena of social entrepreneurship. I am a co-founder of an organization that seeks out business opportunities for rural women, who are otherwise locked out of job markets due to their remote locations, and the gender burden, which takes toll of one of their most precious commodities: Time. One of the projects we run involve women manufacturing and selling re-usable sanitary pads which are popular with low income populations. One beauty of such a project is that it gives women the flexibility to work near the home.
My country recently passed a new constitution, and I am involved in highlighting the new law and the gains it has for women at the grassroots, so that they are aware of government’s obligations.
Having studied gender and development, I also look at ALL activities with a gender lens and mainstream gender into projects. It is always interesting to see how community members appreciate the deliberate effort to bring both men and women into community development, and through working together, some beliefs and attitudes are challenged.
Through pulse wire, and other online communities, I hope to interact with like minded people working in social entrepreneurship on innovative business models they may have come across that are helping to give women and marginalized communities a space in the world of business. I also see the possibility of learning from others the various participatory methodologies that they have used in effecting change in the attitudes and practices of people in their communities across the world.