One of the striking findings of the report “Addressing Gender Barriers to Entrepreneurship and Leadership among Girls and Young Women in South-East Asia” is that gender inequalities hinder women from maximizing their contributions to their communities, exacerbating barriers to their entrepreneurial mindsets, actions, and opportunities. Despite that, young women today lead the change by voicing and showing their capacity and agency to create sustainable solutions that empower their communities, especially fellow women, to ensure they are not left behind.
Gross International Nature (GIN), founded by Warefta-E-Murshed and Tshering Lhamo together with their team Kinzang Gyeltsho, Pema Choden, Ugyen Dorji, and Rubina Adhikari are leading by example that the youth of today are problem solvers in their communities. These youth aim to provide transboundary solutions for the environment and the socio-economic sector.
Their social enterprise name, Gross International Nature (GIN), was inspired by a profound philosophy in Bhutan called Gross National Happiness. For background, according to Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, “Gross National Happiness implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing.”
For team GIN, this translates to them striving to ensure that people find the value of sustainable development through environmental conservation and youth leadership. More on what they do, the team has accomplished creating prototype bricks made of plastic and supporting women in five communities in Bhutan by teaching them plastic waste identification and segregation to turn them into the recycled plastic bricks they have developed. The team is also proactive in helping their community during disasters. After a flash flood in the Jasabi village of Kurtoe in Bhutan, the team supplied two greenhouses and a power tiller the community lost. To this day, they have empowered 300 women and three schools through a climate change education series in Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Through their initiatives, they aim to raise awareness about the impact of climate change in their region to promote individual and community-level actions to reduce its effects.
An essential part of the team’s growth is the people and organizations supporting them by providing a platform to raise awareness and capacitate them on growing in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. One of those supporters is the Youth Co:Lab, co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation.
According to the team,“Being part of the Youth Co:Lab programme significantly impacts our team’s ability as new entrepreneurs. Through the programme, we gained access to valuable opportunities for mentorship, financial support, and exposure to a wider audience. It has helped us establish a sustainable brand in our field and give us a chance to showcase our recycled bricks to a broader audience. As a result, we have attracted technical support and other valuable resources to help us grow and succeed in our venture.”
The team also mentioned that an essential factor in their growth is the ecosystem enablers and opportunities that they actively participated in over the years. Gross International Nature is a graduate of the Springboard Plus Programme, the pre-accelerator of Youth Co:Lab that integrates investment readiness with SDG thematic expertise through virtual workshops with impact investors and mentors from the United Nations and partners. They also participated in and won the Springboard Plus Bhutan in 2022, the National Climate LaunchPad in 2022, and the ClimateAction4CleanAir Challenge in 2021.
During this month-long celebration of International Women’s Day, we asked the team how we can achieve gender equality and empower women and girls in the digital age; they answered, "It is crucial to ensure that women and girls have access to digital technologies and are equipped with the necessary digital literacy skills. Governments and other stakeholders must also promote policies and regulations that consider the gender perspective and encourage diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.”
The team added that we all play a role in closing gender inequality in today’s age by “increasing access to affordable and reliable internet and digital technologies and creating safe online spaces, which are essential for women’s full and meaningful participation in the digital world. By addressing these key aspects, we can help to reduce gender disparities and ensure that women and girls can reach their full potential in the digital age.”
You can learn more about Gross International Nature's (GIN) work through their website: https://www.ginearth.org/ and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/grossinternationalnature/.
Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Read more about Youth Co:Lab here.