Investing in a Future for Asia’s Young Women

This article was originally published on the New York times website on September 1, 2013. For the full article please click
MariSINGAPORE — Mari Sawai and Mario Ferro, who graduated in 2009 from the Masters in Development program of the London School of Economics, founded Wedu last year, a program to help women in Southeast Asia gain access to higher education through microfinancing, mentorship and counseling.
Their aim, they say, is to apply private sector investment practices to a nonprofit organization. In the 18 months since Wedu — an acronym derived from Women’s Education — conducted its first workshop, the organization has raised about $130,000, providing backing for just five students, but it plans to expand fast and to be working with as many as 1,500 students by 2017. The organization, which is registered in Britain but based in Bangkok, aims its outreach efforts at top high schools in developing Southeast Asia — that is, countries other than Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, which are generally classified as developed. The target schools tend to have students with sufficient academic ability to go to university.