7 January 2014

Jewels in the social entrepreneurship crown

I've recently completed a one-month social entrepreneurship project in Bangalore, India, working with other students to empower women from a rural village community by training them to produce 'Roka' jewellery.

Made from bi-products of local village quarries, the ultimate aim of this jewellery is to allow these women to make an income and bring about real changes in their lives. Our role was to design both the pieces and the production process, then engage with and teach them to run the enterprise for themselves. The project is set to play an important social and educational role, with profits from jewellery sales going towards funding after-school tuition centres that my peers and I also volunteered in. 

There were a few challenges along the way, with a few students becoming ill and finding it difficult to adjust to the local foods and environment. But for the most part, everyone enjoyed excellent health and really embraced the village way of life. There were plenty of highlights, such as going into the cities to source materials, even though we didn't speak the local language (Kannada). It pushed us all out of our comfort zones and forced us to fall back on our cross-cultural interaction training.

Networking with the locals was also a fantastic learning experience. As social entrepreneurs, we started from the bottom and worked our way up, making strong headway in spite of limited internet access and zero business contacts in the initial stages. Volunteering in the after-school tuition centres was also so much fun. The enthusiasm of the kids and the genuine passion they had for learning English was so inspiring, especially given their difficult life circumstances.

This entire project was an amazing opportunity to not only apply what we’d learned through our university studies, but also to help make a real difference to the lives of people who need it most.

Find out more about entrepreneurship opportunities at 40rtyK.

Christine Ma: Current Bachelor of Commerce student at the University of Sydney Business School. 

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