For Leila Chirayath Janah, social justice is a four letter word: work. It is a message she absorbed at the dinner table growing up. Leila’s parents were educated, intellectual immigrants, although her mother sliced onions at a fast-food restaurant to earn a living in America. Ultimately, Leila was able to attend a charter school in Los Angeles, where her passion for addressing the consequences of injustice and inequality flourished. It was an important first step on the road she is traveling now—providing jobs to those who have the willingness and the talent but little opportunity.
In 2008, Leila founded Samasource, an award-winning non-profit business that connects women and youth living in poverty to microwork — computer-based tasks that build skills and generate life-changing income, now part of the broader field of impact sourcing. Samasource has moved 4,000 workers and their families over the poverty line in under five years, and spun out a domestic program, SamaUSA. In 2011, Janah cofounded Samahope, a crowdfunding site for medical treatments in developing countries.
Leila’s work with Sama Group enterprises has been featured widely in the press with features in publications including The New York Times, CNN,Forbes, and Fast Company, and she is the subject of a chapter in the book Hearts on Fire. She was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Social Enterprise Alliance in 2011, one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2013, and was most recently featured on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine as one of The 7 Most Powerful Women to Watch in 2014.
Leila serves as a director of CARE USA, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, and TechSoup Global, the world’s largest provider of donated software to nonprofits.
Brilliant and beautiful, Leila has created an imaginative approach to poverty reduction that has been deeply influenced by her unusual family history. Her success is nothing less than incredible and a testimony to her innovative and daring mind.