Project Inspire Co-creators UN Women Singapore and MasterCard Inspire Youth to Submit Ideas to Empower Women and Girls in Disadvantaged Communities

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Singapore, August 31, 2012 – The Singapore Committee for UN Women (UN Women Singapore) and MasterCard Worldwide today awarded a US$25,000 Women’s Empowerment grant to Women’s Private Personal Market Place from Rajasthan, India at the Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World 2012 Grand Finals.

Rustam Sengupta, who represented his team for Women’s Private Personal Market Place, was among the nine finalists who pitched their project ideas to a live judging panel comprising some of the world’s top global development and social entrepreneurial experts, social advocates and business leaders.

The winning project aims to empower women in rural Rajasthan to become entrepreneurs by selling feminine hygiene products to other rural women via a mobile phone application. The application also acts as a platform to provide essential health and sanitary education to these largely illiterate women, as well as offer them a private interface to access feminine hygiene products.

This project is a collaboration between Rajasthan-based Boond, and Decode Global, a Canadian incubator of mobile apps for social change. It was born after both CEOs (Rustam Sengupta and Angelique Mannella respectively) met in Singapore while enrolled at the MBA Program at the INSEAD Asia Campus. The scalable and sustainable micro-business model leverages the high penetration of mobile phones in India (225 million female mobile phone subscribers in India[1]).

In a surprise development at the Grand Finals, MasterCard put forward a US$10,000 Special Recognition Award, which the judging panel presented to LIFE – Livelihood Initiative for Empowerment from Sri Lanka. Their project aims to help a group of war-affected women returnees, largely widows, in Northern Sri Lanka enhance their entrepreneurship capacities through micro-business training and access to credit facilities in order to help them expand their livelihoods.

The project includes training on goat farming, home gardening, business development, marketing and financial management. Additionally, Project Stitch of the Philippines led by Soleil Manzano, Marian Santos, and Jose Maningat, was named the winner of the first-ever Project Inspire People’s Choice Award, receiving the largest share of online votes from the public.

Project Stitch aims to support the livelihood of displaced women in the poor communities of Manila through sewing co-operatives. You can read more about the project and the inspiring young changemakers that created it here. The Grand Finals, held at the INSEAD Asia Campus in Singapore, was broadcast live on 31 August  2012, to a worldwide audience via the Project Inspire website at

A joint initiative by UN Women Singapore and MasterCard, Project Inspire – now in its second year –was conceived in 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and the 25th anniversary of MasterCard in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The nine finalists – from India (3), Uganda, Cambodia, Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lanka – were selected out of more than 350 teams worldwide who submitted their life-changing ideas to empower women and girls across Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

The submissions were in the form of five minute pitch videos (or written proposals) for a chance to win the US$25,000 grant. The panel of international judges reported that the high caliber of this year’s submissions made for intense deliberation during the judging process, and truly reflected the passion behind all nine projects. This year’s judges included:

  1. Paolo Benigno ‘Bam’ A. Aquino IV, President, MicroVentures Foundation, Co-Founder, The Hapinoy Program, Project Inspire 2011 Grand Prize Winner
  2. Vicky Bindra, President, Asia/Pacific and Global Accounts, MasterCard Worldwide
  3. Patricia Devereux, Group Head, Global Philanthropy, MasterCard Worldwide
  4. Dr. Ming Tan, Director, COMO Foundation
  5. Patrick Turner, Affiliate Professor of Entrepreneurship, INSEAD (Judging Panel Lead)
  6. Till Vestring, Managing Partner, Bain & Company SE Asia
  7. Janet Wong, Country Representative, UN Women Timor Leste

“UN Women Singapore believes being agents for women, strengthens not just our families, but bonds our communities and ensures peace and economic security for countries,” said Trina Liang-Lin, President, UN Women Singapore, and co-creator of Project Inspire. “Project Inspire is now a recognized global brand bringing together women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, youth leadership and sustainable social change though the powerful lens of social media and technology.”

Georgette Tan, Group Head, Communications, Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa, MasterCard Worldwide and co-creator of Project Inspire, concluded: “Project Inspire in 2012 has seen some fantastic initiatives from these winning teams, who have dedicated time, money and energy to bringing their ideas before the judges today. MasterCard has been very committed to women’s empowerment causes, and these Project Inspire ideas sit so well alongside our grassroots work with women and girls in disadvantaged communities. They truly exemplify our belief in bringing sustainable impact through education skills training, financial inclusion and social entrepreneurship.”

The winning projects were judged on project sustainability, impact and long-term economic or social benefit to disadvantaged women and girls in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The winning teams will blog about the progress of their projects on the Project Inspire website.

WHAT: Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World serves as a worldwide platform for 18-35 year-olds, offering them the chance to make their ideas a reality in an effort to empower disadvantaged women and girls in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa.Project Inspire is co-created and jointly organized by UN Women Singapore and MasterCard. It was inaugurated in 2011 to recognize the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and the 25th anniversary of MasterCard in Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa.Project Inspire is supported by INSEAD and Bain & Company.2012 Highlights:

  • 350+ pitch proposals submitted from youth around the world (800+ proposals to date since 2011)
  • Youth teams represented 65+ different countries from Africa to Asia to Middle East, the Americas & Pacific Islands
  • Supporters from 165+ countries worldwide have shown their support for women’s empowerment by visiting the Project Inspire website and joining the Project Inspire Facebook community.

Key Milestones:

29 February 2012: Media launch of Project Inspire:5 Minutes to Change the World
8 March 2012: Call for pitches
30 June 2012: Deadline for pitch submissions
3 August 2012: Online voting starts
28 August 2012: End of online voting
31 August 2012: Grand Finals live pitch in Singapore
WHO:                            WHY WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT: GRAND PRIZE US$25,000 WINNER Project: Women’s Private Personal Market PlaceTeam: Rustam Sengupta (India), K.V. Kanchana (India), Nicole Darabian (France)Who the project helps: To empower women in rural Rajasthan to become entrepreneurs by selling and sharing information on feminine hygiene products with other rural women via a mobile phone application. Read more about Women’s Private Personal Market Place here.SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD US$10,000 WINNER Project: LIFE – Livelihood Initiative for Empowerment Team: Dulma Kandaramage (Sri Lanka), Selina Kumar (Sri Lanka), Ashokumar Jegatheepan (Sri Lanka) Who the project helps: To help women in the resettled villages of Northern Sri Lanka enhance their entrepreneurship capacities on income-generating activities.   PEOPLE’s CHOICE AWARD WINNER Project: Project Stitch Team: Soleil Manzano (Philippines), Marian Santos (Philippines), Jose Maningat (Philippines) Who the project helps: Project Stitch provides support and livelihood to displaced women in the poor communities of Manila, Philippines, through sewing co-operatives. Read more about Project Stitch here.   Note to editors: For profiles of the nine Project Inspire finalists and to learn more about the Project Inspire judging panel, visit

  • Project Inspire supports the heightened need to devote resources to the empowerment of women. Despite great strides in their socio-economic standing over the past 100 years, statistics show that women account for 70% of the world’s poor.
  • Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours but earn only 10% of the income and own 1% of the world’s property. Giving these disadvantaged women more opportunities to stand on their own feet has enormous socio-economic ramifications, as empowering women fuels economies, spurring productivity and growth.
  • A growing body of research demonstrates that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women. The Global Gender Gap Report 2009, for one, issued by the World Economic Forum found no country where men and women were equal, but noted that where the gender disparity gap was narrower, countries were more economically competitive and prosperous.
CONTACT:  For media enquiries: media@5minutestochangetheworld.orgFor general


[1] Empowering women through mobile, Vodafone Foundation in association with Digital Empowerment Foundation (