Many Australians would be familiar with Stephanie Woollard’s story after Australia Day this year. The founder of Seven Women and Hands On Development was among the hundred Australians awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her philanthropic work with Nepal’s marginalised and disabled women.
When we here at HerWit heard the news, we were naturally thrilled but not entirely surprised. It is truly an honour to be part of her journey and share her story here.
Seven Women - an organization Stephanie set up in 2006 to give seven disabled Nepalese women a better life - has since led to a documentary, a cooking school, a tour company (Hands On Development) and most recently, a guesthouse. From the start, her business vision didn’t just revolve around raising funds but building a sustainable business that would provide a training ground, empowering these women through sustainable skills and employment.
Stephanie’s journey over the last 12 years has been nothing short of remarkable and inspiring. Yet it hasn’t been without its trying moments. During those challenging times, Stephanie says it was the seven women in Nepal who kept her on course that made her unrelenting in her mission.
“I’ve come to realise that the most isolated and ostracised people are those with the most resilience,” she said in a recent podcast. “They can make the most difference in their communities because they make the most out of their opportunities.”
It’s keen observations like these coupled with deep commitment and fierce tenacity that have led to this esteemed recognition.
When we embarked on setting up HerWit about 3 months ago, Stephanie was the first person we reached out to as we’ve seen first-hand her vision, passion and heart. This is a woman who knows her ‘why’ and who will continue moving mountains to live it completely. She is a true representation of the woman that we aspire to collaborate with in our mission to help women find their voice in becoming thought leaders and change makers.
David Livingston, a former diplomat, fervent Seven Women supporter, mentor and friend, highlighted the extent of Stephanie’s reach in Nepal and beyond.
He noted, “Australia spends a lot of money on diplomacy and foreign aid but it is hard to think of a single intervention that promotes Australia so favourably as an Australian making such a tremendous contribution to the lives of other people as Ms Woollard has done.”
Livingston added that “Ms Woollard’s efforts are recognised well beyond the borders of Nepal, including the Middle East, the US, and Europe. She is idealistic and selfless, as one must be to embark on such a difficult enterprise as she has done. Ms Woollard inspires people to be better, and she contributes to a better Australia.”
To say we’re proud to work with an Australian of this caliber is an understatement. Stephanie Woollard is proof that one person can make a difference. In a LinkedIn post on Australia Day, she expressed hope that her OAM would serve as encouragement to social entrepreneurs who are striving to create change and make a difference.
As she says, “The road ahead is a long one. Keep going. If there’s anything I’ve learnt it’s that committing to a cause can have a ripple effect if you stick at it.”
*Read Stephanie’s inspiring thought leadership pieces on her LinkedIn page and follow her on her journey.
*Follow Shamila Gopalan, CEO, HerWit, for more inspirational and empowering stories about amazing women changing the world one day at a time.