Global Grassroots: Empowering Female Entrepreneurs at the Grassroots Level


Do you know the definition of an entrepreneur? According to the dictionary, an entrepreneur is a person who possesses a new enterprise, venture or idea, and then assumes all the risk necessary to implement it. For Global Grassroots, entrepreneurs are exactly that, but first and foremost, they are women.

What is Global Grassroots?

While traveling throughout South Africa, founder Gretchen Steidle Wallace came to an interesting conclusion. She realized that across the continent, women and girls in marginalized and compromised positions already knew what they needed to do in order to protect themselves or provide for their families. They just didn’t have the economic freedom, financial resources or personal voice to implement those solutions. Grassroots was founded in 2004 to help women in post-conflict Africa advance conscious social change at the grassroots level.

Project PlanningHow Does Global Grassroots Work?

Global Grassroots identifies specific women – or change agents – already working on critical issues in their communities and then enrolls them in their Conscious Change Academy. The Academy is a five-stage program that typically lasts 12 to 18 months. In the first stage, participants undergo a personal transformation process where they examine the root causes of their particular oppression and then learn leadership and personal development skills. In the next stage, participants help map solutions to systemic problems and design a social enterprise to help solve them. The next phase is the project development phase where groups solidify the goals and objectives of their project so they can apply for grants to implement their social venture projects. Each project that receives funding also receives an additional 12 months of intensive support, designed primarily to help ensure the project’s success. Community Vocational Training SchoolThe Community Vocational Training School (CVTS) is a Global Grassroots project that helps empower former prostitutes, this time by teaching them sewing. The women also learn the business skills they need to successfully run their own businesses as independent sewing contractors. In it’s first year, CVTS helped 90 former prostitutes learn the skills they need to embark on a new life. Graduates of CVTS are now able to make just as much money through sewing projects as they did through sex work. The women have also formed a cooperative and are seeking microcredit loans. By working together through the cooperative, the women will be able to solicit larger sewing projects and provide each other with more financial support. Project Development Yassin is just one girl whose life has been impacted by another of Global Grassroots’s venture projects. Yassin was forced to give up her studies after primary school in order to find work to support her family. Unfortunately for Yassin, the only work available was prostitution. The Christian Initiative of Education for Sustainable Peace and Development Vocational Training School (CIESPD) was founded in 2008 by a group of graduates of the Conscious Change Academy. The goal of CIESPD is to help women like Yassin by providing them with vocational training in trades such as cooking, catering and hairdressing as well as entrepreneurship and business skills training to help them set up their own sustainable businesses.

How You Can Help

Global Grassroots hasn’t been around very long, but the impact they have been able to have in only six years has been tremendous. Since 2006, Global Grassroots has trained hundreds of social change agents. Those agents have gone on to implement 18 social ventures with another 10 currently in development. The successful completion of those projects will affect over 35,000 community members. You can help Global Grassroots empower more women to be agents of change in their own lives and in their communities by making a tax-deductible donation. Read about Global Grassroots on their website or blog. You can also find them on Facebook or Twitter. Images Credit: Global Grassroots

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