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Meet Leila Janah, the Woman Who Empowers the World’s Poor

Bangalore: Leila Janah was chosen by Forbes Magazine as ‘one of the 30 Rising Stars under 30.’ And this young mascot well deserves the title for her remarkable efforts. Leila Jahan’s consistent efforts in battling poverty in the most deprived places in the world is empowering and inspiring.

Leila Janah, grew up in U.S and is from an Indian origin, her father is from Kerala and mother is half Belgian and half Bengali. Leila has found a deep bond ever since her first visit to India, while she was in college. About her first visit to India, she said, “When I first arrived at Chatrapati Shivaji Airport (in Mumbai), an immigration official smiled at me and said, ‘Welcome, madam, you are home.’ For a quiet moment before the haggling and hustling began with the baggage handlers, I felt deeply connected to my roots,” as per India Real Time.The idea of world development began for Janah when she was just 17 and travelled to Ghana on a scholarship to teach English and creative writing. There she worked with students and witnessed that one third of the populace live below poverty, which showed the lack of meritocracy. It means many of the educated and intellectual people in the developing countries are unable to earn a proper living due to lack of work opportunities. After returning from Africa she studied African development at Harvard.Her company Samasource, found in 2008 is a nonprofit organization that gives work opportunities to people living under poverty line around the world by sourcing them computer based work. Samasource provides free and specialized training in technology through its 16 centers in 9 countries, which includes India, Pakistan, Haiti, Kenya and Uganda. Its headquarters is located in San Francisco, California, as reported by Visi R. Tilak for India Real Time.

This is exactly where Samasource plays a vital role in providing the platform to people for better living. The word ‘sama’ means equal is derived from Sanskrit. The company’s mission is to mitigate poverty by accessing the brainpower of the people below the poverty line and empowering them to produce goods and services and make them a part of the global economy.

About Samasource Janah said, “I think people are hungry for new ideas and leadership in the world of poverty alleviation. Most development programs are started and led by people with Ph.Ds in economics or policy. Samasource is part of a cadre of younger organizations headed by entrepreneurs from non-traditional backgrounds. It helps that I started when I was 25 and had a fresh take,” as reported by India Real Time.After graduating from college she worked with a consulting firm, which sent her to India to assist a major outsourcing company. At this point she understood the power of outsourcing and harnessed it to create Samasource. The company receives work from large outsourcing firms and assigns it to youth and women who are trained by Samasource to deliver the job. The work deals with transcription services and content moderation. The clients calculate the pay per task and the prices vary depending on the intricacy and amount of work.

On outsourcing Janah informed that they don’t do outsourcing, rather they do impact sourcing. She added, “This is a new term that refers to employing individuals with limited opportunity for sustainable employment as principal workers in Business Process Outsourcing centers.” When asked about her future goals she spoke about her team working on extending Samasource to over thousand more workers in Asia and Africa, plus initiating a domestic pilot in San Francisco, which will be called SamaUSA. Samahope is another venture launched after she learned about the high death rate of women caused during childbirth. It is the first crowd-funding site to raise money for life saving surgeries, in the world.

Leila also has plans to turn Sama into many different business organization, all tackling poverty in different ways using technology.

On being listed on the Forbes 30 Rising Stars under 30, she said, “I guess I don’t think of myself as very successful. Poverty is a huge problem, and according to the latest data on the Millenium Development Goals, it’s not getting eliminated as fast as we’d like. Samasource has added a helpful new voice to the chorus, but we’re still quite small. There are miles to go,” per India Real Time

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