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UWA Business School
International communities in India and Kenya will benefit from two projects being run by the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) UWA team, based at the UWA Business School.
Spark - a new project beginning this year - will employ women from Calcutta, India in the production of environmentally sustainable jute bags. SIFE UWA's second project, Mama Shujaa, will give 18 Kenyan women the opportunity to run their own café.
‘We are working on some really exciting projects which are very closely linked to corporate social responsibility, which is so important not only for the companies but for students who are entering the workforce,' said Ajay Malhotra, SIFE UWA President.
‘The goal of Spark is to help empower the women of Calcutta - many of whom would otherwise be trapped in a cycle of poverty and prostitution - through the provision of a job that they can undertake with dignity.'
Spark will also cut the use of environmentally damaging projects such as non-biodegradable propylene shopping bags. ‘Non-biodegradable bags must be used 171 times to offset their more carbon intensive manufacturing process - but on average, Australian consumers reuse these bags just seven times before sending them to landfill,' explained Harold Walden, Project Co-ordinator of the SIFE UWA Spark project. ‘Our project will use bags made from jute, a weed which grows in India and is completely biodegradable.'
The second stage of this project will be to employ people with disabilities in Western Australia to screen print the bags so that they can be customised for organisations. The SIFE team is currently in talks with TAFE, with the goal of helping local workers to gain a screen printing certification.
Mama Shujaa, SIFE's second project, is currently underway in Kenya. In partnership with Perth-based charity BE KIDS, SIFE UWA is running a microfinancing scheme in which 18 women from Nairobi's Korogocho Slums will be given the opportunity to run their own café.
SIFE UWA students Bowen Tan and Jiamin Lim recently returned from Nairobi. Over two weeks, they finalised the establishment of the business, and ran a series of educational lectures and workshops to improve the women's financial literacy and business know-how.
‘It was really inspiring to see how this project will empower these women to begin their own business to help their communities and families grow and prosper.' said Bowen Tan. ‘The café will open on 29 February and is called Kioo Café, which means "mirror" - they say the place is as clean as mirrors - and also "effort" in Kikuyu.'
The next step in the Mama Shujaa project will be to replicate the microfinance model in setting up a tailoring business to be run by the Kenyan women.
The SIFE UWA team is confident the benefits of Spark and Mama Shujaa will be far-reaching. ‘These projects look really promising and very exciting,' said Hannah Berdal, SIFE UWA External Relations. ‘Both Spark and Mama Shujaa have great potential to empower people locally as well as at an international level.'
The SIFE UWA team were also inspired by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's address to SIFE's 57,000 members worldwide last year.
Emphasising the SIFE students' strong innovation and civic responsibility, Clinton told the organisation's members: ‘You're reaching not only into your own communities, but across borders as well to help those who need it most.' This year, the U.S. State Department will partner with SIFE to host the 2012 SIFE World Cup in Washington D.C.
The SIFE UWA team currently has a portfolio of six projects, all of which address a combination of economic, social and environmental issues. The team is guided by Faculty Advisors Dr Doina Olaru and Dr Donella Caspersz.
Malhotra encourages current UWA students to get involved in SIFE, emphasising the real-life management and business skills that SIFE members gain. ‘Being part of SIFE provides you with skills that are highly valued by employers, and also the opportunity to create change in a sustainable way,' he said.
UWA students who would like to get involved in SIFE UWA can contact President Ajay Malhotra at firstname.lastname@example.org or Human Resources Coordinator Shannon Ziegelaar at email@example.com.