ICGE II: Gender in Sustainable Entrepreneurship & Social Business: The Mediating Role of Empowerment

Women in Indian Social Entrepreneurship Network

ICGE II: Gender in Sustainable Entrepreneurship & Social Business: The Mediating Role of Empowerment

February 28, 2021 #wisenReports 0

WISEN was invited for the second edition of International Conference on Gender Equality (ICGE), a three-day conference organized by the Gender Park, an initiative of the Department of Women and Child Development, Kerala Government. 

This conference was aimed at fostering sustainable entrepreneurship especially for women and transgender person and galvanizing them through policy interventions, implementing innovative ideas and experiences across the globe.

The theme for the conference was “Gender in Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Social Business: The Mediating Role of Empowerment”

The conference had multiple panel discussions, plenary sessions that was attended by stalwarts in the field of policy making, academics, professionals, domain experts and business.  The brainstorming sessions would result in measures that would unleash the economic potential of businesswomen and empower them to become sustainable entrepreneurs.

The idea of the conference is to shine light on the misogyny and crucial linkages between Entrepreneurship, economic growth and poverty alleviation (which are in tune with UN’s 17 Sustainable development Goals).

The Gender Park

The Gender Park campus, Kozhikode is set to be developed into a South Asia hub of gender-related activities. UN-Women is an equal partner in the Gender park which will offer project development and capacity building for the empowerment of women in South Asia. WISEN, upon the referral from US Consulate was offered to be a partner of the second edition of the ICGE Conclave.

[image of partnership logo displayed at website]

5 of us from the Core Team, represented WISEN at the conclave. The three days were filled with so many moments of emotions, knowledge sharing, resource pooling. We are delighted to share with you some of the key points that were addressed/discussed during the conclave.

[group photo taken at ICGE]

Highlights of Day 1

This ICGE II conclave is Kerala’s first Carbon neutral Event. This is in alignment with the park’s objective to become the state’s first carbon neutral campus.

“The Department of Women and Child Development has taken massive steps to ensure that the conference fully adheres to sustainability as its core theme. The event will be evaluated and verified as the First Carbon Neutral Event in Kerala to enhance the awareness and capacity building activities in line with State Action Plans for Climate Change (SAPCC),” said Dr P T M Sunish, CEO, Gender Park.

The conference was inaugurated by Minister for Health, Social Justice and Women and Child Development K K Shailaja Teacher. There is an imperative need to gather, share and document more information with a wider audience about best practices learned and track equality indicators such as participation of women and transgender individuals in governance, management, asset ownership and income parity.ICGE-II will provide a perfect interactive platform for this, said Ms. Shailaja Teacher in her opening remarks.

Policy Interventions to promote inclusivity

Giving the example of Adam Harry, the trans man who wished to become a pilot and was sponsored by the government for his studies at an aviation academy, Shailaja Teacher stressed that the government has been paying for the higher education of trans persons who need support to realize their ambitions. She added, “The department would be of assistance for anyone who needs help to realize their dreams. The government will ensure equal status to everyone and destroy the stigma to protect the dignity of trans persons.”

It is noteworthy to mention that Kerala is the first state to bring policies to uplift the transgender community paving way to gender parity.

Following were the topics of discussion and the list of panelists shall be referred to in footnote. 

Discussion on ‘Innovative Financial Solutions for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Social Business Ventures: Modes of Unfettered, Accessible Funding’

  • Concept of Nano Unicorns – budding entrepreneurs are trained to start business on a low capital of Rs.1 lakh loan without any collateral.
  • Investors are required in digital space to support micro enterprise run by women

Discussion on ‘Gender Equity in Innovation & Entrepreneurship Policies and Programs: Role of Government and Related Institutions’

  • DUET – Decentralized Urban Employment and Training. To keep public places clean by offering employment to jobless people in cities and towns
  • Kudumbashree Mission – a mission to alleviate poverty in the state.
  • Suggestions to put in place an enabling policy and regulatory framework and infrastructure for carrying out of non-profit activities in a smooth manner.
  • Sensitization of service providers on importance of gender equity is need of the hour. To break the stereotypes of women in making pappads and golgappas and allowing them to discover new space in automobile engineering and other technical areas which are considered as an exclusive preserve of men.

A spotlight on Trans Community – Kalki Balasubramaniam

Pitching for acceptance of trans persons and equal space and treatment, starting from their own homes, Kalki said, “Gender transition doesn’t make us outcasts or subhuman. Transgender people lack the education they deserve and are forced to drop out of schools. Opportunity comes in the form of white-collar job offers for the community, but with no means to complete education, surviving on meagre earnings, unable to pay rent, they are fit for only blue-collar jobs.”

Does our plight end with offering a job opportunity and celebrating it? No one cares what happens afterwards,” she lamented.

Responding to her, Harikishore IAS, executive director, Kudumbashree Mission, admitted to the discrepancies in the system. “Sustaining opportunities is a challenge. We need a proper supporting system and hand holding along with a comprehensive ecosystem to ensure more participation while focusing on policies and programmes for gender sensitization,” he said.

Day 1 ended with a play titled “Nothing” which covered all the issues faced by women in terms of gender discrimination and the suppression of her emotions in a patriarchal society.

We, WISEN members had a brief interaction with the Health Minister of Kerala, KK Shailaja Teacher elaborating on WISEN and its goals. She affirmed strong support from Kerala Govt for any reformations that we want to bring to the table.

As the famous saying goes, “All that begins well, shall end well”. After almost 10 hours of back to back sessions and interactions, the WISEN representatives receded back to their interim nest.

Highlights of Day 2

Having spread the word about our Network to a handful of people, our member Rema Sivaram was interviewed by a local Youtube Channel – Channeliam. The link shall be made available at the earliest.

The second day had many panel discussions which widened our perspectives on various aspects which otherwise would have been oblivious to us.

Discussion on – Engendering Social Change: Harmonising Social Gains with Profit Making

  • Gender and disability can go hand in hand, just as business and philanthropy,” opines Mallika Sarabhai, eminent dancer and founder of Darpana Academy of Performing Arts.
  • There need not always be a competition between the corporate world and the values commented Pooran Chandra Pandey, Member, World Food Programme Trust for India and resident representative of Climate Scorecard, Milton, the US.

Discussion on – ‘Leveraging Innovation and Maximising Social Good

Social Conditioning has created an impact even on the latest technologies. In Machine learning, the picture of a male doctor with an apron was recognised as a doctor, whereas a similar picture of a female doctor with a white apron was recognised as a beautician!

  • “The only difference between the two doctors was their gender, and that is how even the latest technology is being conditioned. The social conditioning by a patriarchal society does not spare even artificial intelligence,” says Ambarish Mitra, founder of Bippar & co-founder of Greyparrot.
  • Cynthia Castro, Co Founder of Boomerang Effect says ‘Gender Equalities doesn’t mean the same for all communities across the globe’. She works on sustainable development strategies and has impacted over 45 communities in Costa Rica.
  • The fact that despite technology playing a major role in society’s progress to gender parity, a continuing digital divide could delay the trend among rural populations and economically weaker classes has to be addressed.

Discussion on – Need for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Social Business Practice in Films

  • Women in Cinema Collective – the efforts to address women in the industry as a labour force, pay parity, devaluing the art and effort of women artists and the stereotypical perception of women as technically and aesthetically challenged persons.
  • A few recommendations – to introduce gender-sensitive content, create alternative film spaces for inclusive content, a global platform and to redefine the myth that women-centric films are unsuccessful.”
  • The most popular myth in our industry is, ‘female narratives don’t sell’. The stigma around women-centric films amounts to gaslighting needs to be addressed.

Wise people say, ‘Dream big, work for it. For, the dreams don’t work unless you do’. Delighted with the outcome of day 2, we returned back to our den beginning to dream and discuss about the horizons to which we can shape up the network.

Highlights of Day 3

 Thomas Isaac, Finance Minister of Kerala addressed the gathering – The government is planning a major shift in the development course That is because a course correction is going on at the moment to restructure our economy. The economic sector of the state is weak and one of the prime reasons is women unemployment. That is why we are planning a major shift in the development course.

The third day of the conclave focused on “Towards a world where gender is no destiny” – Spotlight on the works and success stories of gender minorities in diverse areas-

 Discussion on- Challenging gender power structures in sustainable entrepreneurship and social business

  • Kavita Devi of the grassroots feminist news network Khabar Lahariya: started as a four page newspaper company slowly grew out to be the agency that covers remote areas which are ignored by the mainstream media and supply that data to universities and other interested institutions
  • TEDx speaker Sophia David pointed out that the number of women in management and leadership roles across the world is abysmally low. She elaborated on micro aggression, psychological safety and socialisation, while speaking about gender power structures. Sophia also called for greater representation of LGBTQ+ in school textbooks and educating kids on gender equality in an effort to make socialisation possible.
  • Priyanka Dutt, Country Director, BBC Media Action, said we need a world where gender is no destiny.

Discussion on – Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Social Business: Lessons from Kerala

  • Hrithik Mini, the first trans man TV anchor in Malayalam, along with his partner Thripthi, is the first trans couple entrepreneurs in the state, shared their experiences of starting the ornamental fish farm ‘Thripthi aquatics’
  • Anjali Chandran, the social entrepreneur who founded Impresa, a venture promoting weavers and artisans. Nicknamed as ‘Queen of Challenges”, she started first pandemic project in Kerala ‘The Handloom Challenge’ when COVID-19 struck the world. “It was a tough time and I pumped my personal funds to the artisan and weaving community to keep them going, thinking that I was doing a noble act. But one day one of the weavers called me up and said that she no longer wanted money, but work. That was the beginning of the crowdfunded challenges.” Through Facebook, the handloom challenge was a roaring success as people purchased fabric paying just Rs 550. She went on to kickstart the ‘Tailor challenge’ to support local tailors, ‘Happiness challenge’ to support the mothers of differently-abled kids, and the ‘Kuthampully challenge’ to support the weaver community in Kerala.
  • Nisha Krishnan, Founder of Channeliam – “In a country where only 10-12 per cent are English-speaking population, a strong digital presence across vernaculars was lacking. Only with that could a solution be brought to earn recognition to entrepreneurs.”
  • Social entrepreneur Lakshmi Menon, the brains behind the famous concepts of Ammoommathiri Wicksdom, plantable paper pen and Chekkutty dolls, narrated how she found inspiration from the unlikeliest places went on make efforts to bring money, dignity and happiness to the ignored sections of people, like the elderly in old age homes and the weavers of Chendamangalam who lost everything to floods. “It was empowering for them and me as well,” she said.

Valedictory Keynote’s Highlights:

The International Women’s Trade Centre (iWTC)shall be inaugurated by The hon. Chief Minister of Kerala on 14 Feb 2021. iWTC aims at accelerating women’s entrepreneurship and securing gender parity. PTM Sunish said, Kerala has resources, educated young women and ideas; it’s time to discuss business and enterprises. They need help to identify the passion and get proper guidance. iWTC will help them understand their strengths, hone their skills, prepare a project report for their plans, guide them to proper financial assistance. Our aim is to build competency among Kerala women to fight with global brands. A totally women-centered and women-centric exploration, a one-stop solution for all the women who want to start or think something.

PTM Sunish, CEO, Gender Park

A gender museum, gender library, amphitheatre and an international convention centre will be inaugurated on the sidelines of ICGE-II. The focus of Gender Park is on academics, policy research, arts and culture, books, etc – it’s a 360 degree vision. We want the dialogues and policy to work towards empowering gender diverse people in the grassroots level.

Judith Ravin, US Consul General

US launched Women’s Global development prosperity initiative (WGDP), a signature govt effort that reinforces women economic empowerment worldwide as a key initiative. It empowers women to participate in local conclaves and formalize new partnerships with stakeholders across countries. US govt in a grant of $50,000, had a programme to mentor and train 40 women social entrepreneurs from all over India to scale up and meet challenges during covid19. The exciting outcome of this cohort is WISEN. WISEN is a first of its kind association. It will not only support emerging social entrepreneurs across India but also serve as a platform for advocacy for government and financial institutions, investors and other stakeholders.

Thus we come to the end of the tour of what is ICGE II. Now we leave it to you, our founding members to come forward with any ideas or proposals you have which can maximize the impact of our network.

Together lets make WISEN resonate across the globe and take pride in doing so.

Snippets for article –

“Women can be defined in so many different ways. However, according to SEWA, they are workers. They should be recognised as part of the economic system. She may be a wage worker, self-employed or an unpaid house worker, but she is the contributing economic person,” – Renana Jhabvala, President of SEWA Bharat, Padmashri awardee.

Entrepreneurship for women is extra work. It doesn’t absolve her from household work, nor does it entitle her for proper nourishment – Subrato Bagchi, Entreprenuer, Author, Business Leader.

It was when I realised the toughness of convincing men the need to be gender-sensitive I launched my own firm – Cynthia Castro, Co-Founder of Latin American company Boomerang Effect

Technology, too, is just an extension of a male-centric society we live in: Ambarish Mitra

Kavya R Menon, Eco Feminist,  finds it wrong that menstruation is associated with only women. “There are people other than women who bleed. The conversation should be shifted to ‘menstruator’,” she says.


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