Women Social Innovators are Changing the Game in Asia

Source: Aung Kaung Myat

Young changemakers are often brave enough to take unconventional routes in making meaningful changes in our society. Here are stories of four female entrepreneurs who visited the Philippines this July for the ChangemakerXChange summit, a global platform co-created by Ashoka and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. Their social enterprises are at their early stages. But they all share tenacity and willingness to take on big challenges.

Environmental awareness through playing board games

I do believe that environmental problems are very related to human action. So, our earth depends on us whether we want to make it better or worse. We can't control the future, but we can make the children ready to face environmental challenge by giving them the right mindset. So, the idea of Ecofunopoly is to build a better generation with stronger environmental mindset.”

Annisa Arsyad, Ecofun Indonesia

Annisa Arsyad runs Ecofun Indonesia which invented a board game called Ecofunopoly to spread environmental awareness among the young generation. The board game is designed to raise environmental awareness and teach players importance of green behaviors and choices in creating a sustainable eco-friendly world.

The idea came to her in 2009 when she was studying at the university. She created a game that is not only entertaining but also educational. Children and young people can learn about climate issues through playing the game. In 2016, she started working full time for the project.

Currently, the interactive board game is available in 5 languages and 7 themes (carbon emission, waste management, disaster, national park, ecocity, peacebuilder and landscape). A part of the profits received from sale of the board game goes to playing life-sized board game events giving economically disadvantaged children an opportunity to play and learn.


Promoting indigenous architecture in the Philippines

We hope that our work will establish and highlight the physical attributes and foundation of Mindanao and Filipino Architecture and for its preservation. It is our hope too that this will give context to the “stories” of the community and make it known to the public.”

Henna Dazo, Balaybalay

Henna Dazo promotes and preserves traditional architecture of the Filipino people through Balaybalay 3D models toys (Balay Balay means playhouse in the Visayan language). She is on a mission not only to educate children and young people of their rich architectural heritage but also to popularize the unique Filipino architecture through workshops and campaigns.

Henna was first exposed to the traditional Filipino architecture in her second year at the Architecture program at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. Later she joined a social enterprise called the Balay Balay Architecture Puzzles that promotes the architecture of the indigenous people living in the Philippines. She and her team produce Lego-like but bamboo-made 3D architecture puzzles for children who must assemble it to build Filipino landmarks and traditional houses. The puzzles are particularly useful for the recovery of more than 600 children who were displaced from war zones.


Challenging Japan’s work-first culture

“In Japan, many families are isolated. So, we want to make a connection between the families and young people.”

Hinae Niori, Manma

Hinae Niori, 23, runs Manma in an attempt to respond to the biggest societal issue currently faced by Japan – declining fertility rate. Through a program called family internship, her social venture gives the teenage students an opportunity to learn from working families how to juggle parenthood and a career

When she was a college student, Niori observed that her peers were putting their career opportunities before their social life. She wondered if it is possible to build a successful career and a happy family at the same time. Her organization, founded in 2014, offers a program that enables students to spend a day with children and working parents who are in the same profession that students dream to enter.

The number of marriages and birth rates hit record low in Japan showing the disinterest of the young population in investing their time and money in romantic relationship and family life. To counter the trend, Manma has now arranged over 300 family visits convincing people that they can continue working even after they give birth to a child.  


Sustaining the refugee education

At times like this, education has to be done differently, hence we believe in the power of co-creation with children who are also the leaders of future and importance of instilling entrepreneurial thinking among them.” 

Min Chia Teoh, E-lluminate

Min Chia Teoh co-founded E-Illuminate, a social enterprise that empowers refugee children in Malaysia through education focusing on three main areas namely quality teacher placement, vocational training and entrepreneurship training.

There are over 40,000 refugee children under the age of 18 in Malaysia according to the UNHCR. Children of the refugees do not have the basic right to public education. While volunteering for an organization Teoh noticed that religious organizations and international organizations such as UNHCR open informal learning centers to fill the gap in education for refugee children with volunteer teachers. However, the reliance on volunteers as teachers has resulted in inconsistency in teaching methods and content. The funds from the public and faith-based groups can dry up sometimes.

She started E-Illuminate which emphasizes on employing the trained teachers instead of volunteers at learning centers for refugee children while securing multiple funding sources such as private donors, business partners and crowdfunding. With long-term sustainability in mind, she is taking baby steps to provide better education for stateless children.

Aung Kaung Myat is a Communications Intern at Ashoka Philippines. He is currently studying journalism and history at the University of Hong Kong. He is interested in social issues, human rights and Southeast Asia politics.