Stephanie Woollard founded grass-roots social enterprise Seven Women in 2006 while studying a Bachelor of International Development at La Trobe University.
Two years earlier, Stephanie had met seven marginalised and isolated women in Nepal who were unable to earn an income because their disabilities denied them access to training and employment opportunities.
"As I got to know the women and hear their stories, I realised that they were all physically disabled in some way and learnt about the stigma that’s attached with disability in Nepal," Stephanie says.
Stephanie’s passion and determination resulted in the creation of Seven Women. Through her persistence, the organisation has grown over the last ten years from a simple arrangement with seven women to the establishment of four centres in Nepal.
“For the first two-three years, the quality of the products were improving and improving and we now sell wholesale to over 120 shops in Australia. So we’ve gone from seven women in the beginning to now … being able to impact the lives of over 5000 women in our Seven Women programs."
Stephanie says she received "huge support" from the students of La Trobe in the early days of Seven Women.
"I remember the women in their first training made the first 12-13 items and I packed them in my suitcase with the plan to sell them here and fund raise to build them a proper place to live," she says.
"Over that 12 months, I was able to recruit a large group of students to every Monday stand on the stall in the Agora and help me to sell the products to raise money for the women in Nepal."
Seven Women’s links with La Trobe remain. It is now a student club incorporated through the Student Union.
Stephanie believes La Trobe played a considerable role in impacting her attitude for change.
Studying International Development at La Trobe really enhanced my sense of social justice and wanting to make a difference in the world
- "That really complemented my hands-on experience with Seven Women in Nepal and creating a development organisation from the ground up."
In 2011, Stephanie established Hands on Development, which runs study tours to Nepal. Participants visit a range of organisations, including those working with Seven Women. The purpose of these tours is to inspire participants to become change makers.
In 2019, Stephanie was deservedly awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her philanthropy and humanitarian work in Nepal.
Last updated: 9th May 2019