Women’s empowerment through entrepreneurship

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), U.S. Consulate Kolkata, in partnership with, Shillong-based non-profit Asian Confluence, organized a two-day boot camp for 25 selected women entrepreneurs from Northeast India, at the American Center in Kolkata, on November 12-13, 2021.  The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA), is implementing AWE in over 50 countries globally and has engaged with more than 5,000 women entrepreneurs despite pandemic challenges.  The U.S Consulate General Kolkata-led AWE program marks the first AWE in India, which has supported 150 early-stage entrepreneurs and business owners from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Nagland through a structured online education from the University of Arizona’s Dreambuilder course. This included guided facilitation from alumniand business leaders,, as well as technical sessions with the Nexus Incubation Hub at the American Center in New Delhi.  It has resulted in creating an entrepreneurship ecosystem for scaling business ideas and fostering networks to provide access to mentorship, funding, business partners, and market linkages.

Addressing the gathering, Consul General Melinda Pavek said, “The United States believes strongly in women’s empowerment through entrepreneurship, and stands firmly for women’s equality, and inclusion in all public endeavors.  These are challenging times indeed, but an opportunity for us to show the strength and depth of our bilateral relationship.  I am proud of the way we at Consulate Kolkata have continued to adapt our programs to support entrepreneurs in our region.  Keeping in mind that women in particular face increased challenges during these times, we have stepped up our efforts to support and mentor women entrepreneurs.”

The program, which kicked off in November 2020, has so far provided Dreambuilder certification to 80 women entrepreneurs.  The Dreambuilder online course was  developed by Freeport-McMoRan in partnership with Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University,  a world leader in international management education.  While the program had to shift to a virtual platform, we were able to organize three in-person workshops in Dimapur, Shillong, and Imphal with strict adherence to Covid protocol and safety measures.  The grand finale brings together, for the first time, 25 top entrepreneurs from the northeast who will participate in a shark-tank styled business pitch session which will be evaluated by a jury panel.  Top performers will be awarded seed funding and/or entry slots as part of the January 2022 cohort of the Nexus incubation program at the American Center in New Delhi.

Nexus is one of the top business incubators in India, offering unparalleled networking, mentoring, and funding opportunities to Indian start-ups.  In four years of operation, the Nexus start-ups have gone on to raise over $19.5 million USD and concluded deals with over 70 U.S. companies.

Encouraged by the first edition, the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata will launch the second edition of AWE for 75 early-stage entrepreneurs in Bihar and Jharkhand on November 19, 2021.  The U.S. Consulate Kolkata, Asian Confluence, and other partners of the AWE platform will continue to support women from the East and Northeast India, in their entrepreneurial journeys through alumni engagement opportunities, grant opportunities, and several other programs supported by the U.S. Mission and other development partners across the region.

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