Meet Yann Borgstedt
Founder & President, The Womanity Foundation
After the successful sale of my first company, I decided to develop my philanthropic commitment as I felt that if life had given so much I had to give back. In 2005, I founded the Womanity Foundation. Our mission is to empower girls and women to shape their future and accelerate progress within their communities.
For me, focusing on the advancement of women and girls was a straightforward and sensible decision. True to my entrepreneurial nature, I wanted us to adopt the most effective strategy possible toward creating sustainable, systemic change. It wasn’t about separating women and girls from men and boys, but rather about ensuring that the female population would be able to participate freely, fully and equally to their society’s development.
I’m an entrepreneur by nature and to me success is linked to free choice, fruitful collaborations and productivity. If half of the assets of a society are held back and unable to realize their potential, we are wasting resources and stalling progress.
That’s why Womanity’s work is guided by a vision of a world where all women and men have equal and full social, economic and political participation.
We work to empower girls and women, because we know that their advancement can also have a positive ripple effect on their families, communities and nations.
One of the first programs Womanity launched was NISAA FM, a female-led radio station that aims to connect, educate and inspire women in the Palestinian territories and abroad. In the Middle East, Journalism is not a profession strongly associated with women, and I was drawn to the idea of developing a radio station to train and employ female journalists and showcase the work of inspirational female role models. As I began to explore this possibility, I met Maysoun Odeh Gangat, NISAA FM’s co-founder and current director.
This was an exciting time for Womanity, but not one without concerns. Philanthropy comes with many risks. Before NISAA FM, Womanity was involved with a girls’ education program in Morocco. We were identifying girls working as “little maids” in the big cities, re-enrolling them in school, and supporting them with a small monthly stipend. We soon learned, however, that many of the parents were purposefully sending their daughters to the cities to enroll in the program and gain from the monthly stipend.
We were wary about making a similar mistake again. Not only did NISAA FM require a lot of financial support to launch, but we were also in the middle of a major conflict area. People actually laughed at us. But I knew the work was important, and I knew I wanted to support Maysoun’s leadership. In 2009, Radio Nisaa FM was launched as the first women’s Arabic-language commercial radio station and multimedia website in the Middle East. Today, NISAA FM is the fastest growing radio station in the region.
Maysoun Odeh Gangat Describes the Impact
Director, Radio Nisaa FM
Radio Nisaa FM seeks to change the perception of women’s role in society by highlighting their social engagement, successes, and creativity through powerful stories and discussions. Nisaa FM also trains and employs women to facilitate their engagement in a mostly male-dominated media industry.
I met Yann in 2009 in Jerusalem. He was passionate about the idea of a female-led radio station in Palestine that could connect and empower women. As a Palestinian woman and having previously set up and managed a radio station, I was very keen on pursuing the idea as well.
From the inception of NISAA FM, Yann and the Womanity Foundation have been incredibly supportive to me personally, as well as to our project as a whole. He was never simply a donor or investor, but a partner and important pillar of strength for our mission and vision.
Yann gave myself and my team autonomy. He trusted my leadership and allowed us to develop and implement our vision for NISAA FM independently. This sense of ownership was incredibly important to building our organization’s sense of leadership, empowerment and hope to accomplish our goals.
Of course, Yann’s gift goes beyond benefitting our organization’s staff to include Palestinian women at large as well. For example, we recently had a segment in partnership with USAID on women’s experiences navigating family and religious law in their community. We interviewed a number of stakeholders including judges, lawyers, and women who have open cases in the family courts.
Our goal was to educate the public on the different issues affecting women in regards to family law and to allow women to share their experiences and insights with one another. At the end of our program, we had engaged over 95% of our listeners and many of the women who we interviewed had their family law cases adopted by lawyers who were listening in on the radio as well. It was incredible to see, first-hand, our power of connectivity.