Wedu began with a simple belief – that half of all leaders around the world should be women. To start this journey, our co-founders Mario and Mari asked two questions:
“Where can we find women leaders, and what do they need?”
In 2011, the pair traveled to Southeast Asia where they connected with a host of partners and like-minded organisations. Together, they invested in building a future of gender-equal leadership by taking those first symbolic steps. They organised a number of workshops and were greeted by rooms full of enthusiastic women. These women came from unassuming backgrounds, yet they each saw past their immediate circumstances and worked hard towards their visions for self-growth and social change.
Many of the ideas that were explored in these initial workshops were new to the participants, yet there was an undeniable intensity in their hunger for personal and professional development. From dreams of being the first woman from her community to complete a university degree, to combating cultural and societal norms at the highest levels – some of these future changemakers became our very first Rising Stars.
After these first workshops, it was apparent that even though talent might be everywhere, opportunities are not. Whether it’s an opportunity to build confidence, overcome cultural barriers, chart an unconventional path, or pay for tuition fees, listening to their early needs helped illuminate common themes that prevent aspiring women leaders from developing their potential. And while these challenges and experiences connect them all, everyone’s journey is different and has something unique to celebrate.
In our earliest days, Mario, Mari, and some early volunteers and partners developed a programme to identify and serve even more women leaders through mentorship and scholarships. Since then, hundreds of inspiring women leaders across the world have joined our Community. They have helped evolve our leadership development organisation into a set of programmes and services that have been adapted to best fit the unique journeys of women leaders – no matter where they are or the change they seek to make.
As more women accomplish their goals and inspire other women around them, their stories and passions continue to fuel and give shape to our mission. Just like our Rising Stars, the more we discover new opportunities and stretch the boundaries of what’s possible, the more we’re inspired to do and to dream, more boldly than we could have ever originally imagined.