Two years ago, my friend Megan and I were set with the task of completing a “senior project”, which is a final project for graduating seniors at my high school in Hong Kong intended to help the individuals reflect on “student learning results”. The student learning results included academic excellence, spirituality, character development, self-motivated learning, contributing to society, and Chinese culture. Despite the challenge of incorporating all six student learning results into one cohesive project, Megan and I jumped at the opportunity, with our main attraction being contribution to society. It was then that with the support of many family members and friends, we decided on the idea of working with Asia Initiatives to start a micro-finance bank.
Fast forward to now. It’s been two years and I am a college student who has undertaken many “student learning results” and gained unforgettable experiences as a Junior Board member of Asia Initiatives. The initiative from two years ago today has become a thriving gem-cutting micro-finance bank in Tamil Nadu.
A few months ago, Asia Initiatives’ CEO Geeta Mehta sent me an email highlighting the work of the 16 women who are now involved with the gem-stone cutting factory. Their vision is: Rural Women as entrepreneurs enjoy economic growth; social inclusion, respect and dignity thus significantly contributing to gender equity, rural poverty reduction and national economic prosperity. By working together, these 16 women have earned “Rs. 2.4 lakhs rupees of income as well as provided 1850 days of work.” The most important change through this process however is “the regained confidence among the women artisans” which supports their vision completely. Here is a picture of the women intensely working at the gem-stone cutting factory.
As an Indian, Asia Initiatives’ junior board member, but most importantly as a young professional involved with this project from its inception, I feel attached to the project and find myself committed to its success. Even so, the uncertainty arising from my current status of a student and the physical distance between me and the gem-stone factory resulted in a complex approach to empowering and supporting these women. Reflecting on the project however, I admit that the support to this project led to empowerment as a result of empowering on its own accord.
Learning of the unparalleled strength and determination of the women at the gem-stone cutting factory taught me the value of resilience. Watching the factory grow and succeed taught me the value of will power and investment. Even at a distance, these women showed me what it meant to be empowered as an individual, but also as a cohesive group with the same vision and goals.
As a junior board member, I am fortunate to be surrounded by incredible women in and through Asia Initiatives, who show me what it means to be empowered as an individual and part of an international community that strives for gender equity, rural poverty reduction and national economic prosperity. In retrospect, I will continue to be inspired by the gem-cutting initiative, which has provided me with empowerment in the act of empowering, even at a considerable distance.
Finally, I would like to thank Geeta Mehta and Roxana Daver for their endless support during all stages of Megan and my senior project. Without them the project would not have been nearly as successful. Megan and I could not be more proud or thrilled by the success of these women.
– Maya Daver-Massion is a member of the Junior Board at Asia Initiatives