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Inspired by…Student wins 'outstanding contribution' award for empowering women in India

Posted on 28/06/2013

Last month, the Enactus Society at Royal Holloway beat over 40 teams from across the country to finish in the top five in the Enactus UK National Competition, with President and Management student Magali Mathieu winning Best Team Leader for the South.

A community of social entrepreneurs, the students use the power of business and entrepreneurship to transform the lives of those in need by developing a range of projects both in local communities and around the world.

EconomicsPolitics and International Relations student Rosa Pellicer from Royal Holloway won the ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’ for founding and leading a project in Anantapur in India, called Sustainable Empowerment for Women (S.E.W.). The team taught a community of forty impoverished women how to produce and sell incense sticks, including all stages of business from market research and product development, to production and sales.

We caught up with Rosa to find out more about the project:

What inspired you to set up a project for women in India?

As a woman, gender inequality has always been an issue that I felt strongly about and wanted to tackle. Travelling to India in June 2011, Magali Mathieu and I witnessed the harsh realities that many women in India face. Indeed, violence and disrespect was a recurring theme, especially within poor and rural communities. This inspired me to act. I looked to find a local NGO that would help transform my vision into a reality. I've always been very proactive, and believe that in order to change something, you must work to make it happen.

What was the greatest challenge you faced during the project?

Definitely raising the necessary funds. We had to fundraise significantly on campus and pitched the project to several corporations. It took a year to raise the required amount before we could start.


What are you most proud of about the project?

The positive social and economic impact our project has had on the forty women that took part. We raised them above the poverty line and increased their incomes significantly (by approximately 80%). Most importantly, they are now able to provide the necessary support to their families, and buy groceries such as milk and vegetables. Some of them have also been able to save, in order to purchase the necessary treatment for their children and protect them from allergies and other health issues.

They no longer rely on their husbands for income. Before the project, they would ask their husband for money, which would cause conflict, and often violence, within the household. By earning their own money, men see their wives as equals, curbing the violence significantly.

Do you believe that entrepreneurship has the power to change lives?

Certainly, Enactus is a great example. Every year, different teams develop amazing projects, transforming the lives of thousands of people all over the world. You can directly impact the individuals you work with by transferring business knowledge. We sometimes hear the saying: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime". This is at the core of Enactus. We teach individuals a range of skills (including business and economics) so that they can put this learning into practice by themselves, without our help. This ensures that the project is sustainable, meaning that the positive impact is not just temporary.

By creating businesses and enhancing entrepreneurship, we can create employment and help others in the community as well. This is perhaps why social entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship with a social focus) is increasingly on the rise.

What is the next stage for the project/your future plans?

This is my final year at Royal Holloway, so I have handed my role as project leader to Francesca Bertolino. Nonetheless, the connection I have with this project is very personal, so I will still seek to be involved informally, always being aware what the next steps are and mentoring the new project leader if needs be. This summer, Francesca and I are travelling to India again. We want to expand the women's current network of customers, by building contracts with local hotels and temples. We will also seek to expand the project in other areas so that we can impact more individuals in need.



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