Empowering Young Women Through Entrepreneurship Programs

Providing young women with the knowledge and tools to create their own businesses, ultimately enabling them to break the cycle of poverty

Photo of Neha Gupta
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Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Instagram: @nehakgupta Facebook: Empower Orphans www.empowerorphans.org

Date You Started Your Project Started

Fall 2006

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The World Bank estimates that there are 736 million people living in extreme poverty globally. Of those people, more women than men live in poverty. The cycle of poverty is difficult to break without the right educational tools, inevitability leading to a poverty stricken state for children and future generations. We are striving to equip young women with the right tools so that they are able to break the cycle of poverty.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

As part of Empower Orphans, we focus on the concept of “The Ripple Effect”- the concept that any idea or group of people can have a huge impact, regardless of how small the original idea or group is. We have set up mentorship programs that teach children and young women about this concept and help them understand how impactful their actions can be. We want to now build on this idea as part of our workshops to teach young women about entrepreneurship. Our workshops provide women with trainings and tools to learn how to start a business and how that business can help them create self-sufficiency for themselves. By providing them with the opportunity to generate a revenue cycle for themselves, they can provide for their (present or future) families and ensure that their children grow up in a state of reduced poverty. We plan to offer seed money to the women and provide them with ongoing training to grow their businesses. Part of our idea is also to create an “alumni group” of women who go through our program so that they can train other young women with the same tools. This gives young women the chance to create a better life for themselves and create a ripple effect.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Empower Orphans was founded when I was 9 years old. As part of a family tradition, my grandparents would take our family to a local orphanage to provide meals for the children. When I was 9 years old, I was heartbroken to understand that the orphaned children were unable to go to school or receive basic healthcare. I knew that I needed to take action to raise money for the orphanage and provide the children with opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. When I returned home to the United States, I held a garage sale to sell all of my toys in order to collect money for the orphans. With the money that was raised from that one event, I was able to start a library and provide warm sweaters and food to the orphanage, the following year. I then decided to continue my efforts and since then, the organization has "snowballed" in its impact.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

The first step we take is identifying a community in a developing country that could benefit from the empowerment of young women. We then find volunteers who would be willing to donate their time and knowledge to lead a workshop. As part of our past workshop with Deloitte, the employees developed a curriculum with knowledge they have learned as well as outside research to teach the women. During the workshop, we split the young women into groups and provide them with a mentor who will teach them for the day. During small group sessions, the mentor helped the women brainstorm an idea, develop a business plan, and then practice pitch-delivery. As part of the day with Deloitte, each of the young women presented their ideas to a panel of judges and the winning pitches/ideas received seed money to carry out their ideas. Our idea is for these young women to then be changemakers themselves by

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Empower Orphans has a proven track record of 14 years of changemaking, solely done by youth for youth. We have no overhead costs and our strategies and projects directly depend on the needs our impacted communities/populations. This project is unique because we are teaching vulnerable populations to create self-sufficiency that positively impact themselves and future generations. We are not just donating money or goods. We are training young women one-on-one and striving to lift themselves out of poverty so that they ultimately can become mentors to other young women.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Over the past 14 years, we have positively impacted 30k underprivileged and vulnerable children globally by providing them with the tools to break the cycle of poverty, including access to basic education and health care. Projects have included 25 health clinics to provide children with medical attention for the first time in their lives, 5 libraries and 4 computer labs, workshops for young women to learn how to start their own businesses, 2 student-led trips to an orphanage in Uganda, and mentorship program at 10 US schools and foster centers. I was honored to receive the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2014, an award received by both Malala Yousafzai and March For Our Lives. As an activist, I have helped shape the UN SDG’s and given motivational speeches globally. I have launched global campaigns with companies to address pressing issues of education and healthcare.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We plan to develop a structured curriculum for volunteers to teach as part of workshops and a toolkit for the women to use. We plan to identify companies and partner with them in order to connect employees with local/global sites to conduct workshops. We would like to hold 10 workshops within the next year at our sites in India, Uganda, Haiti, and the US (Panama soon as well). At the orphanage in Uganda, the young women have started businesses. We plan to hold a workshop with these women to scale these businesses and then train them to go out into the community to train other young women to start their own businesses. Once we have established sustainable models at our current sites, we will expand to new sites to grow our impact.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Brand Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 100%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sarah Holcomb

Neha — I’m so impressed by your commitment and the incredible work you’ve done over the last 14 years! The “by youth for youth” approach is powerful and sets “Empower Orphans” apart from other international organizations. Since you mentioned that branding expertise would be helpful, I’d suggest checking out this guide for social entrepreneurs: https://www.unltd.org.uk/our-support/learning-area/developing-your-marketing-strategy-and-marketing-plan. I’m excited to follow your changemaking journey!

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