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Fight Poverty With Entrepreneurship: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Social Change | February 20, 2013

Fight Poverty With Entrepreneurship: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon agrees with President Barack Obama's decision to spotlight poverty in his State of the Union address. However, she thinks that there was one solution to helping those who live on less than $1 a day that was left off his list—entrepreneurship. Men and women in some of the poorest regions in the world are turning to business to lift themselves out of poverty. And, according to Lemmon, these people are doing a lot more than just surviving. In fact, they're thriving. Lemmon knows because she's seen it first hand. When researching her book The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, she worked on the ground floor with a female entrepreneur who created a viable income not only for herself, but for an entire community. Further, she did so in the face of political oppression and extreme financial instability.

In an op-ed in The Huffington Post, Lemmon explains that there are numerous benefits when a woman starts a business in a poverty-stricken community. "When women have income coming in research shows that the entire family benefits in the form of better nutrition and health," she writes. "More money also means that parents must no longer face a choice between paying a son's or a daughter's school fees—a contest which the daughter usually loses—since there is enough money for both boys and girls to be in the classroom." This last point is especially crucial given that education is one of the most powerful tools to combat poverty.

While many business owners still struggle with finding access to start-up funding, there are just as many who have been successful in doing so. "So file 'entrepreneurship' in the category of what works when it comes to the poor lifting themselves out of poverty," she writes in the article. "The innovation gap that remains, particularly on the question of access to funding, is one that requires creativity, an embrace of risk and, most importantly, determination." But, Lemmon says that the payoff is well worth the effort. Lemmon is a leading voice on the role of entrepreneurs in the developing world. She writes regularly for Newsweek and The Daily Beast and is the deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations' Women and Foreign Policy. In her keynotes (like her recent TEDx Talk) she shares her on-the-ground reporting experience with her audiences. She shows us the ways that innovation is changing—and why we should be supporting entrepreneurs, whether female or male, in the developing world.
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