Commitment to leadership for good to benefit people with disabilities and women entrepreneurs - The University of Sydney

Fellowship to benefit people with disabilities and women entrepreneurs

3 December 2015

The University of Sydney Business School and the Centre for Disability Research and Policy is providing women and people with disabilities in South East Asia with skills to exploit commercial opportunities.

The School will this month conduct a fellowship titled 'Empowering Women and People with Disabilities through Entrepreneurship Education' for the leaders of women's groups, disability organisations and educational institutions in Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Developed by The University of Sydney Business School and the Centre for Disability Research and Policy (CDRP) this fellowship is funded under the Australian Government’s Australia Awards Fellowships administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Australia Awards Fellowships provide opportunities for Australian organisations to strengthen links with partner organisations in developing countries through short term study and professional development opportunities in Australia.

"Twenty-five participants are coming to Sydney for a fortnight and will together develop entrepreneurship programs specifically focused on benefitting women and people with disabilities in their own communities," said Dr Richard Seymour, Director of the School’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program.  

The Australia Awards Fellowship, Dr Seymour says, will build on an "in country" program which has already delivered entrepreneurial skills to more than 4,000 people in rural and regional areas of Myanmar. Working with our Entrepreneurship Development Network Asia (EDNA) partners, specifically with EDNA Myanmar, we are having real and positive impact on people’s lives.

The World Bank says that about 20 per cent of the world's poorest people have some kind of disability and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged. Women with disabilities often suffer because of their gender and their disability.

"The aim of the fellowship is to help drive inclusive development through entrepreneurship and communities of learning," said Dr Seymour. "We hope our education and mentoring program can be localised and further developed with the help of these experts."

"Importantly," he added, "we want to help these organisations empower women and people with disabilities through the skills and knowledge to build sustainable enterprises."

"The attendees of the course represent a broad range organisations providing opportunities for women and people with disabilities to secure pathways out of poverty by stimulating small business development," said Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn, Director of the Centre for Disability Research and Policy.

"It is a step towards addressing the reality that these groups are disproportionately affected by poverty," Professor Llewellyn said. "The Entrepreneurship Education course brings women’s groups and Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) together so both are equally empowered to create and sustain workforce opportunities."

The intensive two week course will include presentations by guest entrepreneurs, networking opportunities and lectures on issues such as market evaluation, building a business, tracking the performance of a business and managing a business.

Participants will also visit Google and The Impact Hub Sydney, a shared workspace for young entrepreneurs and business start-ups.

"I am particularly excited that we have a guest speaker from the World Health Organisation (WHO) available to present to the fellows," Professor Llewellyn added. "Dr Chapal Khasnabis is a world leading expert on assistive technology and will be presenting on the WHO Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) initiative."

Speaking ahead of the fellowship, Muhamad Ahsan, an Indonesia university lecturer, said he wants to build awareness with in his community of what it means “to be an entrepreneur and not to rely on others".

"I would like to take action that helps to develop the true potential of the community," he said.

Dean of the Business School, Professor Greg Whitwell, described the Australia Awards Fellowship "very much in keeping with the School's commitment to leadership for good".

"This program draws on the Business School's world standard expertise, it is inclusive and will ultimately lead to a better life for a very large number of people in the Asian region,” Professor Whitwell concluded.