On November 24, Nick Kristof published a powerful article about “Do it Yourself” philatnthropists in the New York Times Magazine. Kristof profiles courageous women who have given up lives of comfort in the US to develop low-cost sanitary pads in Rwanda, fundraise for women in Congo by running races, and run a school for Nepalese children.
This article and the stories shared about the women serve as an important reminder why grassroots organizations make a difference. Biology shouldn’t be destiny—we all have the capacity to try and make the world a better place.
At Spark, we often discuss how some of the women’s greatest barriers to education or employment are often issues you don’t think about – transportation, meals away from home, sanitary supplies during menstruation. By brining a fresh perspective to many of the daunting issues facing women around the world, young entrepreneurs are able to enact real change that breaks the mold of what traditional aid workers envisioned.
While change and progress often take three steps forward and two steps back, this article serves as an important reminder of how simply engaging in these issues is both noble and adds to the greater good. As Kristof writes, “anybody wrestling with poverty at home or abroad learns that good intentions and hard work aren’t enough. Helping people is hard.” But any progress, even incremental, is exciting and deserves to be celebrated.
Today, my spark is Elizabeth Scharpf – a 33 year old entrepreneur working to create a low-cost sanitary napkin solution that may help keep Rwandan women in school and at work. She may not succeed, but her business-based approach to tackling gender inequality and working to enhance productivity in the developing world is truly admirable.
Jenn Wilcox is a founding member of Spark NYC.