Leila Janah: Using Technology to Better the World

August 12 - On The Dot
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: An Attitude of Gratitude

When I’m watching Real Housewives, I admit, I get a little envious about how casually the women show the camera all the Louboutins in their closets or when they vacation on a yacht just because.

It’s easy to be jealous and almost easier to judge. But don’t compare what you have in your wallet to what you think others have in theirs. Be thankful for the basics. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have enough food to sustain you? Are you alive and well? If the answer is “yes,” you’ve got a lot to be thankful for.


Every year, Maria Shriver releases a report about women in the United States. Her findings in the 2014 report are staggering. One in three women in America live in or are on the brink of poverty. That accounts for about 42 million women. Adult women aren’t the only ones; 28 million children are in the same boat.

The brink of poverty is defined as an annual income of $47,000 or less for a family of four. One of the reasons this might be the case is because women hold almost two-thirds of minimum-wage jobs.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Leila Janah, Founder and CEO of Sama Group and Laxmi

Leila Janah earned her bachelor’s degree in African development studies from Harvard University. She was a visiting scholar with the Stanford Program on Social Justice. She was the youngest person to win a Heinz Award, in 2014, has graced the covers of Fast Company and Entrepreneur magazines and was named one of the Most Promising Entrepreneurs by Fortune.

Pretty impressive, right? What’s even more impressive is that her success stems not from a selfish, career-driven mindset, but from her desire to end global poverty. And she’s working toward that goal by employing modern technology.

The beautiful thing about being surrounded by technology is that work can happen anywhere. Leila took that to heart when she created Sama Group in 2008. Sama moves people out of poverty through training and access to online work.

Sama Group has three programs: Samasource, Samaschool and Samahope. Samahope was the first crowdfunding site to raise money for surgeries required for people in underserved communities, and paid for more than 16,000 treatments before Johnson & Johnson’s global health platform took Samahope under its wing in 2015.

Samasource helps marginalized women and youth find work through the Internet. In 2014, Samasource provided work to 1,450 new workers, jobs that don’t just help the worker, but also their children and families.

And Samaschool provides low-income people with a digital skill set they can utilize for Internet jobs. The training can be done in person and online. Samaschool recently launched a community college course in California and is piloting a training course in East Africa. Within 10 weeks, graduates earn an average of $12.64 an hour, an increase of 27 percent compared to their most recent jobs.

Leila and her enthusiastic teams in San Francisco and Nairobi, Kenya, have helped nearly 30,000 people get out of poverty.

In addition to creating Sama Group, Leila also founded Laxmi, a one-of-a-kind luxury beauty brand that funds work for women in need. Its primary ingredient is harvested by local workers throughout the world and the work earns workers three times as much as average local wages.

Leila has also co-written a book called America’s Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age about providing people with opportunities through technology.

Changing people’s lives and well-being are at the heart of Leila’s businesses. And her mission to offer a hand up versus a handout is honorable. She’s truly building a better world, one community at a time.


Co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, a renowned philanthropist in his own right, said:

“I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions, they will be moved to act."That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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