Breaking the Bihari Stereotype: The Entrepreneur

It wasn’t until I began traveling throughout India that I learned the immense stereotypes that plague Bihar and its people. They aren’t always negative and they surely aren’t all positive – many are simply curious because they just don’t know.

Zubin Sharma, the founder of Project Potential (PP) and my AIF Clinton Fellowship organizational mentor, expressed that being just one of the many reasons why PP is serving in Kishanganj, Bihar: because it believes in the enormous potential of all its youth and community, even if the outside world may find it hard to.

PP is on a mission to create an ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation to solve the youth unemployment crisis in Bihar. The first step to building the ecosystem is to create role models. PP believes that these role models will inspire other youth to become entrepreneurs. PP currently has 25 entrepreneurs in its rural incubator, which provides rising entrepreneurs with training, mentorship, access to funding, and market linkages. 

For example, here’s Bharti Manavi…

Bharti is one of PP’s youth. A young girl who surprised us with her determined commitment to learn and grow. She is spear-heading PP’s rural incubator with her social enterprise that helps empower rural Bihari women to become financially independent. She wasn’t just an incubatee but also my friend, my roommate and everybody’s little sister. Her positivity and spontaneity shines through in the video, where she gets a little personal and shares her story.

Our commitment to her wasn’t simply financial but for a young organization such as PP in the development sector of India, our commitment was relational, empowering, inspirational, and long-lasting. On this two-way street, I found myself growing and learning how to support Bharti. I figured out ways to teach her new aspects of her organization by simply asking questions and providing humble feedback when she asked. Sometimes even providing her more of a space for curiosity and investigation, allowed her to learn experientially. When we worked together to solve a problem or learn new computer platforms, I’d remember the popular saying often attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I’ll forget, Teach me and I’ll remember, Involve me and I’ll learn.”

In the video, Bharti talks us through her experience of being supported by Project Potential and how she began her social enterprise. Bharti revisits her journey with the rural incubator, how it all started and where she wishes to go in the future. She explains why she is interested in creating jewelry from natural materials, and ultimately, why she believes that women should become financial independent. Her insights are important and give testimony to a grassroots movement sparked as she marches forward in rural Bihar as one of the local rural girls from Galgalia as a entrepreneur helping to support rural women gain social and financial independence. In this “Breaking the Bihari Stereotype Series,” I hope this video paints a bigger picture of who she is and how the entire Project Potential team has supported her along her adventure with us. I hope you enjoy it!

A first-generation American, born and raised in the South Bronx, New York, Esmeralda is a graduate of Reed College with a Bachelor’s in Linguistics and a minor in International Relations. A recipient of the Princeton in Asia fellowship, the Benjamin Gilman scholarship and the highly competitive Humanity in Action fellowship, Esmeralda has traveled to China for an intense language immersion program and to Amsterdam to study international human rights. Esmeralda recently worked for a social enterprise where she created immersive programs utilizing experiential education theories and activities in order to empower youth leaders of tomorrow in Indonesia, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Vietnam. She utilized her previous work as a Student Support Specialist where she used social work practices and methods to help at-risk youth find different successful life options and improving educational outcomes for diverse communities. She has experience in identifying and implementing community and system improvements, interventions, managing non-profit, and institutional partnerships. Esmeralda spends her time volunteering with numerous organizations by conducting and counseling people through HIV testing, conducting homeless youth advocacy, and tackling the education gap. Esmeralda is a compassionate and thoughtful humanitarian, she is a determined and collaborative leader who believes in justice, equity, respect, community, and hope. She believes in the exchange of ideas in order to connect communities, for growth and most importantly for learning. In her spare time, you can find her dancing, in the gym or hanging out with loved ones.

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One thought on “Breaking the Bihari Stereotype: The Entrepreneur

  1. Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories and highlighting some of the people you worked with this past year, Esmeralda! I really appreciated getting to know them all!

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