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Entrepreneurship: Starting Small to Impact the World

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Much is said about lifting communities out of poverty, but the obstacles can be huge. So I'm always curious to see who takes on this challenge.

Bano Fatima is a young entrepreneur undaunted by the scale of the social and economic inequality that she discovered in a weaver community, known as the Julahas, in the village of Baragaon, Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh, India. This political science student, only 19 years old at the time, decided that she should make a difference.

Along with her cousin Nabila Kidwai, she established Weaver's Hut, a small-scale social enterprise to strike at the root of the social discrimination and economic exploitation experienced by this artisan community. She found that the social status of weavers in India is extremely low, and so too are their educational and financial prospects. Their weaving work requires high labor input, but achieves low productivity and carries health risks. To compound these problems, India's handloom sector is informal and unorganized.

Bano needed to develop her own technical and communication skills in order to help this community. So she selected and completed the HP LIFE (HP Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs) training, now also available online as a free, cloud-based HP LIFE e-learning training program. Through the HP LIFE training, she became proficient in using MS Excel for accounting purposes and MS PowerPoint for high-impact sales and marketing presentations.

With her new entrepreneurial skillset, Bano now provides a forum where the weaver community can sell its products in major cities. But this is only a small start to more far-reaching plans. Through her enterprise, Bano intends to also help these people build life skills (including literacy), uplift their own lives, and gain education opportunities for their children. She also hopes to expand this support, bringing professional and personal development to more artisan and agricultural communities in the future.

Her achievements to date have been recognized by partners HP and The Global Poverty Project, an international education and advocacy organization working to catalyze the movement to end extreme poverty. On 28 September 2013, Bano will receive the HP LIFE Entrepreneurship Award at New York's Global Citizen Festival*. This prize was awarded as her incredible entrepreneurship story received the most online votes from the HP LIFE/Global Poverty Project community, ahead of the stories of four other highly inspiring HP LIFE entrepreneurs.

For me, Bano provides proof that entrepreneurship, combined with the power of technology, can affect social change. As we often witness in deprived or developing communities, people are not short on entrepreneurial ambition and ideas, but many lack access to the necessary skills and the opportunity to turn their ideas into a better life. This is the way ahead - anyone, anywhere can all start small, secure employment for themselves, create jobs, and impact the world.

* Hosted by HP and The Global Poverty Project, the Global Citizen Festival (28 September 2013, 16:00 till late) in Central Park, New York City, aims to raise awareness of the potential global impact of even the smallest businesses. The event will be livestreamed on GlobalCitizen.org, Yahoo, AOL, and other sites, and this coverage will be available on-demand for 72 hours post-Festival. During the event, musician Jake Clemons will present the HP LIFE Entrepreneurship Award (including $5,000 USD and a trip to New York City) to Bano Fatima of Weaver's Hut.