Celebrating 15 years Women on Wings

Women on Wings celebrated its 15th anniversary on Monday September 12, 2022, in Zeist, the Netherlands, with an event dedicated to 15 years of impact. The inspiring speakers at the event emphasized why it is important that women have a job and income. They also shared what the impact is of Women on Wings’ work on women, social entrepreneurs, and the volunteer experts. The program ended with a quote from a letter sent to Women on Wings by her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, congratulating Women on Wings on fifteen years of commitment to inclusive development.

The living proof
The event kicked off with an inspiring video of fifteen-year-old Mittal, daughter of one of the women who work at Unipads, a business partner of Women on Wings. She is the living proof that thanks to her mother earning an income, Mittal and her sisters can study and pursue a career. Mittal: “My mother got married at a very young age. At my age my mother worked in the fields. But I get to study. I am proud of my mother. Despite not being educated my mother works at Unipads. So that I can pursue my further studies for a better future.”

This was exactly the reason why Ellen Tacoma (picture 4th left) and Maria van der Heijden (4th right) founded Women on Wings 15 years ago. On stage they underwrote the importance of income in the hands of women as women spend it on education and better food for their children. They shared how impressed they were by the female Indian entrepreneurs they met in 2006. Their drive and passion to create a better future for women inspired Ellen and Maria to start Women on Wings and support these enterprises through sharing knowledge and expertise. Ellen and Maria: “Right from the start we set a clear and crazy target, one million jobs for women in rural India.”

Mutual inspiration and growth
Geeta Solanki (2nd left), a social entrepreneur from Gujarat, India, told her personal journey of founding Unipads, a company that manufactures and supplies reusable sanitary napkins. Besides providing an environment friendly solution to menstrual hygiene, Unipads works on breaking the taboo around menstruation. They also aim to empower rural women by creating employment opportunities. As a social entrepreneur in rural India, Geeta was looking for mentoring and business support. Geeta: “I found Women on Wings and they helped me a lot in realizing both business and personal growth.”

In turn volunteer experts Antoine Miltenburg (left) and Marlies van der Meulen-Sahni (3rd left) explained how working outside their comfort zone with the social entrepreneurs in India helped them improving their business in the Netherlands. They emphasized how rewarding it is to be able to share their own business knowledge with the enterprises and to see the results in terms of growth of the company and jobs for women.

Ronald van het Hof and Shilpa Mittal Singh, joint managing directors of Women on Wings (2nd and 3rd right), underlined this broader impact. They referred to recent impact research by the independent agency Prastut Consultancy that confirmed that the impact of Women on Wings’ work is reciprocal: the entrepreneurs and experts learn from and inspire each other.

Future plans
Asked about the target of co-creating 1 million jobs for women, Ronald and Shilpa stressed Women on Wings’ commitment to achieve this by 2030. Said Ronald: “The growth in jobs will accelerate the coming years as we decided to start working with state governments on strengthening their women entrepreneurship programs, next to our existing work with the social enterprises.” None of this would be possible without the support of Women on Wings’ funders. Shilpa adds: “We have seen that people are very motivated to support us. Therefore, on the occasion of our 15th anniversary we are very proud to launch the Shakti Giving Circle. The idea behind it is to create a powerful giving circle that can empower rural women in India through work and income.”

Picture right is seen Sofie van den Enk, the host of the event
Watch the picture gallery | pictures made by Aad van Vliet