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International Women's Day 2024

March 8, 2024

Today is the UN’s International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “Invest in Women: Accelerate progress”, focussing on ending poverty, implementing gender-responsive financing, shifting to a green economy and care society, and supporting feminist change-makers.

We spoke to three of the many women change-makers in our college community whose work resonates in these areas.

L-R: Sara Berkai, Dr Eeshani Bendale, Dr Ana Nacvalvaite

Supporting feminist change-makers

Dr Eeshani Bendale (MSc Candidate, Evidence-Based Health Care and Kellogg College MCR President 2023-2024)

Dr Eeshani Bendale is a doctor from India whose work is focused on the globalisation of Ayurvedic medicine. She is a current student at Kellogg studying for a master’s in Evidence-Based Health Care.

Eeshani has been selected to join the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) as a UN Women UK Delegate. The 68th session of the CSW will take place next week at the UN headquarters in New York, with the theme “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective”.

The theme of this year’s IWD, “Invest in women: Accelerate progress,” resonates deeply with me and I believe it’s crucial to highlight the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in our global community.

Apart from her medical duties and responsibilities, Eeshani has always felt the urge to contribute towards the fight towards gender equality and women empowerment. She explained: “As I once read – “Women don’t need to find their voice. Women already have a voice. They just need to be urged and helped to be able to use it.” This quote stuck with Eeshani and has empowered her on a personal level to do her bit in contributing to the global endeavour towards destroying gender biases and towards helping women own and use their autonomy and avail basic human rights. “Ensuring women’s and girls’ rights across all aspects of life is the only way to secure prosperous and just economies and for a healthy planet for future generations. I’m volunteering with UN Women UK to help make that happen.”

Ending poverty

Sara Berkai (MSc in Child Development and Education)

Kellogg alumna Sara Berkai has been working to educate displaced children in East Africa. While studying for her master’s degree in Child Development in 2020, which focused on the influence of technology/hands-on physical computing on a child’s self-efficacy, Sara founded Ambessa Play.  Ambessa Play is a social enterprise that designs educational STEM (science, tech, engineering and mathematics) kits, crafting tools that ignite curiosity, creativity, and confidence. “Think IKEA for education,” says Sara. “We want to bring the textbook to life so children can learn through play.” The company arose from Sara’s interest in the digital divide and solving the problem of access to education.

Originally from Eritrea, in East Africa, Sara and her parents fled a war in the region and moved to London, where she ended up working in tech and volunteering in an educational role on the side. Curious to understand how these sectors looked back where she was from, she eventually returned to Eritrea and delivered STEM workshops, teaching 300 children to build laptops. “The feedback was insane,” she says. “10 and 11-year-olds saying ‘I’m going to become an engineer now’, just from one experience with hands-on learning.”

Sara believes every child deserves these learning opportunities, so for every one of Ambessa Play’s products sold, the company donates a free kit or workshop to a displaced child.

There is a concrete line drawn between education and economic opportunities. Due to the COVID pandemic and conflicts, 75 million more people have fallen into severe poverty since 2020. Immediate action is crucial to prevent over 342 million women and girls living in poverty by 2030.

Shifting to a green economy and care society

Dr Ana Nacvalvaite (Research Fellow, Kellogg’s Centre for Mutual & Co-owned Business)

Dr Ana Nacvalvaite’s work largely centres on sustainable funding approaches. She leads the Kellogg Centre for Mutual and Co-owned Business, and is an advocate for businesses to invest in communities to enable sustainable development. In October 2023 Ana received the ICON Award presented by the US Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI) for her research on SWFs/State Capital impact investment and work on sustainability in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ana recently had an article published in The European, which spoke about the need to focus on the social aspect, or the ‘S’ in ESG. In this article, Ana discusses the different generational approaches to funding and their social contexts. She notes that a lot of the funding and investment in the market at the moment is shifting, with Baby Boomers starting to retire, and Generation Z at the beginning of their wealth accumulation journey. Ana says “Millennials, meanwhile, pursue their quest in the search for more responsible and sustainable investments, aligning themselves to ESG principles. They seek a diversity of social-based investments, through a gender lens, defending under-represented communities, and supporting minority-owned businesses, among others.”