Women Leading Social Change: 5 of the World’s Best Female Social Entrepreneurs 1285

This has been recognized by many of the world’s leading thinkers and doers including the Dalai Lama, who said:

“According to scientists, women have more sensitivity than men. Sometimes I really feel that more women should take responsibility in the leadership of our planet. It would mean less violence.”

Beyond the numbers, beyond UN statistics, there are thousands of leading female social innovators who are reinventing how to address pressing issues and effecting change on a regional and global scale.

Having women social entrepreneurs is good for any number of reasons (for the most cut and dried, go back to those UN statistics). But one reason that’s often left out is that women, especially at the grassroots level, have the perspectives and ingenuity to effect change benefiting other women and society more broadly in a very efficient way.

It’s women, for instance, who often understand the barriers to accessing the resources for change. It’s women who understand that programs after working hours often don’t work for women because, in most traditional countries, they’re expected to care for children or cook. Women, more than men, better understand the challenges their children face when it comes to accessing education, finding employment, and getting health care. These are the perspectives that women bring to social innovation that make their participation so significant.

With this in mind, here are five of the world’s leading female social entrepreneurs. They’re spread out all over the globe, with women working in diverse areas with diverse people. Some of them you may have heard of, others probably not.

Remember, if one organization speaks to you, don’t hesitate to reach out and get involved. These organizations are often hiring and are always taking volunteers. Don’t be afraid to venture out and get involved, even if the organization is far away from your home.


  • Organization: Afghan Institute of Learning
  • Social Entrepreneur: Sakena Yacoobi
  • Focus Area: Early Childhood to Primary Education, Women’s and Girls’ Education
  • Regional Focus: Central and Southern Asia
  • Major Awards: Skoll Award, Ashoka Fellowship, Opus Prize, Schwab Social Entrepreneur   
  • Website: http://www.afghaninstituteoflearning.org

What they do:

Over the last twenty years, the rights of women, access to education, and the availability of healthcare and health information have floundered in Afghanistan. Simply attending school or getting a book was almost impossible under Taliban rule, especially for women. Today, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) is working to rebuild an education system across the country by training teachers (21k to date), health staff (10k to date), and operating a hospital which sees 2000 patients per month.  

Why it’s important:

AIL is spreading education and health information across a country that, after nearly three decades of war, has a vacuum. The teachers AIL trains, the nurses they inform, and most importantly, the boys and girls they teach will go forth in their country with the skills and knowledge to rebuild Afghanistan and bring prosperity to the country.


  • Organization: Breakthrough
  • Social Entrepreneur: Mallika Dutt
  • Focus Area: Human Rights
  • Regional Focus: Central and Southern Asia, North America
  • Major Awards: Lipman Family Prize, Skoll Award
  • Website: http://us.breakthrough.tv

What they do:

With its mission of making violence against women and girls unacceptable, Breakthrough uses media arts, and technology to change norms. Through classroom modules, leadership development, educational entertainment such as interactive theater, video vans, call-in radio shows, online games, and mass media public service advertising, Breakthrough is training people from all backgrounds and changing societal norms to make the world less violent toward women.

Why it’s important:

Breakthrough is truly reaching a large audience in India and the US. Since their founding, their campaigns have reached millions of viewers and over 500,000 people have participated in their training sessions. What’s more, their work with lowering the prevalence of child marriage has resulted in an increase of nearly a year in the marriage age for girls in villages where the program operates.

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  • Organization: 96 NISAA FM
  • Social Entrepreneur: Maysoun Odeh Gangat
  • Focus Area: Civic Engagement
  • Regional Focus: Palestinian Territory, greater Middle East
  • Major Awards: Ashoka Fellowship, Synergos Fellowship, CGI Fellowship, Schwab Fellowship
  • Websitehttp://www.radionisaa.net/


What they do:

96 NISAA FM is the first commercial, Arabic language, women-focused radio station and website in the Levant. 96 NISAA FM, meaning women, uses the airwaves to empower women through the use of media and through providing a platform for everyone to come and discuss women’s issues.

Why it’s important:

96 NISAA FM uses a unique and new approach to addressing women’s issues in the Arab World. Through media, it transforms how women see themselves and how they are perceived and seen in regional and global media outlets. 96 NISAA FM is also used to present women with positive role models, give them information on professional growth and development, and encourage more of them to enter the global media stage.   


  • Organization: Roots of Peace
  • Social Entrepreneur: Heidi Kuhn
  • Focus Area: Peace, Human Rights
  • Regional Focus: Central, Southern, and Southeast Asia; Europe; Middle East; Africa
  • Major Awards: Rotary International “Service Above Self” Award, “Walk the Talk” Award from UN World Environment Day, Skoll Award
  • Websitehttp://www.rootsofpeace.org


What they do:

Roots of Peace aims to revitalize war-torn parts of the world. They do this in several ways from the most fundamental, like removing landmines, to the more nuanced, like restoring farmlands so that people can work and earn a living.

Why it’s important:

Roots of Peace (ROP) works all over the world removing landmines and other remnants of war so that land can be cultivated again and people can go back to productive work. From 2004 – 2014 alone, ROP helped to put one million farmers back to work and created tens of thousands of jobs in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.


  • Organization: Saúde Criança
  • Social Entrepreneur:Vera Cordeiro
  • Focus Area: Economic Opportunity, Education, Health
  • Regional Focus: South America
  • Major Awards: Ashoka Changemakers: Innovations for Health, Top 500 NGOs, Skoll Award
  • Website: http://www.saudecrianca.org.br/en


What they do:

Saúde Criança is an organization that, with its pioneering methodology, helps children who require hospital care and live below the poverty line and pushes families toward economic and social self-sufficiency. Among other things, Saúde Criança offers vocational training to families, provides housing and housing improvement, and runs programs for pregnant women and adolescents.

Why it’s important:

Saúde Criança uses a groundbreaking approach to social change which has been studied and shown to work by studies at Georgetown University. Because of its success, the methodology has been replicated at 23 institutions in 6 Brazilian states, which has helped more than 50 thousand people across the country. The methodology has even been incorporated in several hospitals in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.



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