13 Sep My experience as a HerStart Fellow in Uganda

Written by Vinuu Aarif Senthil

Embarking on a HerStart Fellowship with Youth Challenge International (YCI) has been a life-changing experience, where I have had the privilege to contribute to the HerStart program as both a Program & Partnerships Fellow and a Social Entrepreneurship Fellow. Throughout this journey, I have had the opportunity to work closely with young women social entrepreneurs, witnessing their tenacity and drive to make a positive impact in their communities. This blog post will take you through some of the most memorable moments and impactful takeaways from my fellowship journey, as well as the skills and knowledge I have gained in the process.

As a Program & Partnerships Fellow, my journey began with providing comprehensive support to young women social entrepreneurs enrolled in the HerStart program. From spearheading program design and coordination efforts to implementing innovative systems that enhanced organizational efficiency, my role was aimed at driving economic growth through women-led enterprises. Through needs-based trainings, reports, and resources, I supported HerStart participants to achieve their goals, fostering a sense of confidence and determination among these inspiring women.

Aarif, a HerStart Fellow in Uganda

One of the most significant learning experiences during my fellowship was driving resource mobilization efforts. Crafting compelling concept notes and fundraising strategies became an essential part of my role. Witnessing the results of these efforts, with substantial support and recognition pouring in for YCI HerStart and Motiv initiatives, was immensely rewarding. This experience not only developed my communication and persuasive writing skills but also instilled in me the importance of effectively presenting the organization’s mission and impact to potential partners and funders.

Transitioning into the role of a Social Entrepreneurship Fellow allowed me to dive deeper into supporting young women social entrepreneurs on their HerStart journey. Providing assistance with Catalyst Fund applications, refining business models, and monitoring business impact, I witnessed firsthand the transformative potential of social entrepreneurship. By delivering trainings on innovation, impact measurement and design thinking, I played a role in equipping young women with the skills necessary to create socially impactful enterprises with long-term sustainability.

Throughout my fellowship, I actively engaged in holistic orientation and training opportunities, covering themes such as human-centered design, ethical volunteerism, climate action and gender equality. This broadened my perspective on development work, emphasizing the significance of ethical considerations and the integration of diverse perspectives to create lasting positive change. These themes have become guiding principles in my approach to innovation and gender-responsive fund management.

My fellowship journey with YCI’s HerStart program has been a transformative experience, both personally and professionally. Working alongside inspiring young women social entrepreneurs, contributing to organizational growth and impact, and engaging in holistic training opportunities have shaped me into a more empowered and empathetic individual. Empowering women entrepreneurs, driving economic growth, and promoting sustainable practices have become my passions, and I am excited to continue this journey of growth and impact beyond the fellowship. As I move forward, I am grateful for the invaluable experiences and skills I have gained, and I look forward to making a lasting difference.

Learn more about YCI’s HerStart Fellowship opportunities for Canadians to contribute their skills and gain experience while collaborating with women entrepreneurs and global partners to advance social entrepreneurship and gender equality.