It’s another morning for a weekend conference in the San Francisco Bay Area. As the November days extend, there are fewer of these forums left to attend. Still, Shanzay Kazmi and Alexis Ajluni have already packed their business cards, which read “Empowering Women to Rise Above Gender Inequality”, into their travel bags. Who will they approach at this event? The Dean of Admissions at Wellesley College, the Education Development Manager at KIVA, and Girl Rising’s own International Campus Coordinator (Rediate Tekeste) all have at least one thing in common- they’ve all had conversations with these two high school seniors who run Powerful Women, a website which has attracted 5,000 unique visitors in the first two months.
It was only a year ago when Shanzay was tasked by her English teacher at Notre Dame High School in San Jose with writing a persuasive speech on a social justice issue. She chose to write her speech on gender inequality and Alexis was her peer-editor. The assignment meteorically increased their passion for woman’s issues and they decided to spend their summer interviewing professional women about their experiences in the workplace/boardroom. They published their interviews on Powerful Women, a treasure trove of advice from accomplished females on how to achieve career goals. The ladies wanted PowWow, as it’s known, to be a woman-to-woman empowerment site.
As of late, the best advice they’ve received is attributed to a twenty year old entrepreneur who told them to “Just put yourself out there. People will be attracted to your passion and they will come to you. Opportunities will come to you.”
The website and their upcoming projects are still in the incipient phase, but before they divert for college next year they plan to host workshops for girls in middle school and organize a KIVA Walk to raise awareness about microfinancing. They’ve even started a KIVA Lending Team for their organization, so it’s only fitting that both Shanzay and Alexis now want to pursue a degree in Business.