PAWA’S Story

PAWA's launch at Asia House
“In the course of my business life I have met so many inspiring women from all over the world, but always felt that in general, women in Asia have had less opportunity to achieve a voice. Two thirds of the global population is Asian and half of those are women. Many of them will never have the chance to realise their full potential. But imagine their contribution to the Asian and global economy if they are so empowered” — Sungjoo Kim

Anju Ahuia
Zehan Albakri
Anshu Bahanda
Anna Garamendi-de Venecia
Lady Ghazala Afzal Hameed
Heena Kim
SungJoo Kim
Takako Kosciuszko
Mei Sim Lai
My Phuong Lecocq
Jiyoon Lee
Sonia Lo
Ziba Moshaver
Clare Muhiudeen
Anna Paik
Adrienne Lofts Parkins
Elizabeth St Clair George
Betty Yao

'The idea of PAWA was born,,,,

The idea of PAWA was born when Sungjoo Kim, Founder of Sungjoo Group and Chairperson of MCM Holding, met with Anna Paik, Betty Yao and a handful of other invitees over tea in 2008 and suggested the launch of a support group for professional Asian women in London. Having encountered the obstacles faced by women in professional and business settings, Sungjoo felt strongly that women must create their own networks for support and mentoring. In early 2009, she hosted an evening at Asia House organised by Betty, Programme Director at the time, and from that gathering 18 women from diverse backgrounds paid the £250 seed money each to start PAWA and become the Founding Charter members, with Sungjoo providing the bulk of the resources.

Numerous discussions had led to a shared belief that PAWA should be a non-profit with a broader reach to help women in Asia, and that it should be volunteer-run to maximise its impact. However, as PAWA was a small organisation, its remit had to be narrower in order to be effective. As Betty Yao says: “It was only after we met Jacqueline de Cholet [founder of the Veerni Institute in Rajasthan, India] ….(who had) done a lot of research into women’s issues and identified the lack of support for teenage girls across Asia, an area that was largely ignored”, that PAWA defined its mission: to support the education of teenage girls in Asia. “We could understand and relate to the benefits that an education would bring to teenage girls and young women in Asia. By concentrating on that one goal we could make a difference,” remembers Zehan Albakri.

Of the 18 charter members, 5 women — Anna, Betty, Zehan, Ziba Moshaver and Heena Kim — went on to set up PAWA as an Association and launched it at Asia House on 29th September 2009 with Betty as the first Chair of the Management Committee. My Phuong Lecocq came on as Hon Treasurer, and Mei Sim Lai joined as the probono auditor.

PAWA started off supporting 2 projects in 2010 — Banyan Tree and Chow Kids — but its activities gained traction after 2012 when it was registered as a Charity in the UK. Zehan took over as Chair of the MC, and more and more projects were brought within PAWA’s ambit, largely through personal recommendations. Over the years, even as the management structure has evolved and Trustees have changed, its ethos of being run entirely by volunteers has remained the same, thus ensuring that almost all the funds PAWA raises go to the girls it supports.

In its 15 years of existence, PAWA has supported over 20,000 girls in some 11 countries. PAWA works closely with trusted project partners on the ground, and vets each request for support thoroughly, both at the start and through the duration of the funding period. It monitors the projects closely to make sure that the funds reach the intended beneficiaries.

PAWA’s story is a simple and powerful one: women helping other women lead a better life. Anna Paik looks back on its origins: “PAWA genuinely started from a sitting room conversation and grew to become a charity run 100% by volunteers, helping so many young girls who are brave enough to dream and pursue a better life through education”

For Clare Muhiudeen, a Founding Charter Member, “The pull factor for me joining PAWA was the collective spirit of a group of Asian women….deciding that they wouldn’t wait for others to drive change and vowed to work together to make a difference. The energy and passion of those early years has carried through today”.

If your company does business in Asia, is interested in promoting diversity and supporting education, PAWA is happy to discuss any ideas.