Check out these #InternationalWomenInAction for SDG 5: Gender Equality

Interview with Modjossorica (Rica) Elysee, Co-Founder, #AtTheTable; and Lauren Mason, Director of Partnerships, Komera

The people at Impact Hub Boston are not only doing good work in Boston, but all over the world. In my most recent interviews, I saw how hubbers working on SDG 5: Gender Equality were reaching both people in Boston and the United States, but also in Rwanda. Modjossorica (Rica) Elysee of #AtTheTable and Komera’s Lauren Mason talk about how their global and local work supports female empowerment, while simultaneously switching cultural dynamics around gender equity. 

Tell me about #AtTheTable. Why did you start this nonprofit and what is its value proposition for society?

Rica: “#AtTheTable is an organization that unites female and non-binary founders across industries to create a supportive community to help founders grow as entrepreneurs and change the world. We do this by organizing gatherings around dinner tables for founders to share voices, build authentic relationships, and collaborate with one another.  women eating together at formal dinner

Beth Santos and I co-founded #AtTheTable over two years ago. We met on Twitter and were soon talking in-person over cupcakes and smoothies about the challenges of being female entrepreneurs. Our conversation that day was so real. Often, female founders are so adjusted to pitching our businesses and being positive, while they silently suffer from imposter syndrome. Beth and I were able to recognize that in one another and, bouncing ideas off one another, were able to solve more problems. We decided to start #AtTheTable to help more women and non-binary founders build that kind of network (while enjoying great food).  

When we first put out a call for dinner hosts, we received over 100 applications. Since then, we have directly reached over 600 women and organized dozens of dinners over the past two years. Our cornerstone event is Female Founder’s Day (December 13), which brings together nearly 200 women each year in Boston and has been recognized and endorsed by Governor Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh. We are also starting to receive international support. We are working with UN Women to host a panel on women in business and female empowerment. 

What is Komera? What is its value proposition for society?

Lauren: “Komera is an international nonprofit with programs in Rwanda that develop self-confident group of young women smiling young women through education, community development, and sport. We want to empower young women and the communities they live in. That means that we work not only directly with these women, but also with their families and within their communities. 

How do we do this? Originally, Komera started out by providing scholarships for young women to attend school. We then started to use sport- and exercise-based events to show the community that girls/women are also strong and capable of such physical activities. These advocacy events were run by Komera students and quickly became a platform for the women to lead in their communities, empowering them further.

Now, many of our advocacy events and programs are co-designed by Komera students. For example, one of our newer programs, Soccer for Youth Engagement,  is run by a former graduate of Komera. The program reaches 750 primary school students a week, using sports to break down gender stereotypes and preempt gender-based violence. We are thrilled to see that classroom participation has skyrocketed as a result. woman outdoors holding sign that says "together we can fight violence in homes" Komera

There are many targets within SDG 11; which of them does your organization focus on?

#AtTheTable: 

  • 5.4 Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
  • 5.B Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
  • 5.C Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

Komera: 

  • 5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • 5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  • 5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences

Both: 

  • 5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • 5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  • 5.A Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws

What is your second-favorite SDG and why?

Rica: “Affordable and Clean Energy. Sustainable Cities of the future will need to integrate affordable and clean energy into their structures in order to be successful.”

Lauren: “SDG 4: Quality Education. The reason being that, at Komera, we believe that where you are born shouldn’t dictate the quality of the education you receive. We thus focus on depth instead of breadth, making sure we make deep investments in the individuals we are reaching before expanding to other communities.”

Any calls to action? How can our readers make your work more impactful?

Rica: “Identify the female founders you know and celebrate them! Recognize their accomplishments and find out how you can support their businesses (even if it is as simple as sharing a post on social media). We also encourage any female or non-binary founder interested to join an #AtTheTable dinner or submit an application to host. Our 2020 dinners launch in April!”

Lauren: “You can learn more and join Komera activity by clicking here. You can also join the Boston Komera Global Run (in Boston or virtually) the weekend of June 26-28! Follow Komera on social media through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date.”