In Interviews with Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise

Meet Jeroo Billimoria

Jeroo is a serial social entrepreneur whose work has impacted lives of millions of children around the world. She is a founder of a number of global impact-driven businesses, mainly focussing on empowering the youth. Her passion for social entrepreneurship can be traced back to her childhood, as her parents were deeply committed to creating positive impact through their social work. Following in their footsteps, Jeroo founded her first organisation MelJol in her home town of Mumbai, India. MelJol (Coming Together) fosters healthy attitudes in children and develops children’s citizenship skills by providing opportunities to contribute actively and positively to the environment. 20 years after creating her first organisation, Jeroo has become a world-renowned social entrepreneur, with organisations operating on a global scale. She has been awarded the Social Entrepreneurship Award from the Skoll Foundation and she is an Ashoka and Schwab Fellow.

Empowering Children Worldwide

During her time in the Department of Family and Child Welfare at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, Jeroo ran a field action project that brought her to interact with children living on the streets. Slowly, children in crisis started contacting her. It became clear that there is a need for a service providing immediate help and support for these children. Jeroo worked to establish Childline India Foundation, a 24-hour a day, 365 days a year, free, emergency phone service for children in need of aid and assistance. Childline was the country’s first attempt at providing street children quick access to support, such as police assistance and health care. Today, through its unique social-franchise network of 980+ partner organizations across India, Childline handles over 8-10 million calls and 300,000 interventions a year. Jeroo continues to have a seat on the organisation’s board.

After Jeroo moved to the Netherlands, she committed to providing essential support for children worldwide. She founded Child Helpline International, an international network of emergency telephone service providers for children. The first global meeting of child helplines was held in The Netherlands in 2003, when 49 child helplines got together to form Child Helpline International. When scaling the network, Jeroo says she drew from experiences of her predecessors and utilised operational models of already-existing European helplines. Today, the worldwide network comprises 173 full and associate members, an international collective of civil society and governmental organisations who listen to children every day.

In 2005, Jeroo used her Skoll Foundation Award to bring social and financial education to the world. Based on her prior action research project started in India, Jeroo founded Aflatoun International. The mission of this non-profit organisation is to teach children their economic rights and responsibilities as well as promoting basic financial management skills and habits. Today, the organisation has impressive 345 partners in 108 countries and provides social and financial education to over 10.5 million children every year.

Cooperation is Key

Jeroo is a founder of One Family Foundation which incubates social innovations and applies the systems change methodology to help organizations scale. The Foundation aims to initiate positive change in the world through partnership and shared mission – incubating diverse projects and facilitating projects to scale globally. She is also co-founder of Catalyst 2030, a network of social entrepreneurs, initiated by leading social entrepreneurs from Ashoka, Echoing Green, the Schwab Foundation, the Skoll Foundation and other global networks. The group is inclusive and is rapidly expanding to include governments, funders, bilateral organisations, multilateral organisations and others seeking the timely achievement of the SDGs.

“I think much more collaboration is needed and for accelerated change. All my organisations have worked on collaboration. I don’t believe in not having collaborations. The world is an ecosystem. I think you have to have collaboration to anything.”

Jeroo’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs

When asked about her advice to aspiring changemakers, Jeroo acknowledged that being entrepreneurial can be challenging. With every achievement and every step forward, you can take another step backwards. What keeps her going is believing in her mission, believing in change and believing in human nature. Social entrepreneurs have the desire to create positive impact and create a more equitable world and to those she says:

“Believe in your dreams, follow them and work hard. Don’t try to go about it alone because you are just a drop in the ocean.“

See more interviews with changemakers from the Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise List HERE.

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