Growing up, Lila Igram didn’t have to look far for a role model. She found her inspiration, from a young age, in her own home.
“My parents are definitely my role models; they are very grounded and humble people always looking out for the underdog.”
Lila’s parents were underdogs themselves, Muslims in America, having immigrated from Lebanon. But being different didn’t stop them. They took the opportunity America offered and ran with it.
“My parents were entrepreneurs. They ran a neighborhood grocery store, restaurant, laundromat and furniture store. They worked smart and extremely hard and did well. Entrepreneurship is the great equalizer.”
Lila says her childhood in Iowa was great but there was one aspect of it that nagged at her.
“I think growing up Muslim in America had a big impact on me. I was surrounded by super strong women who came from developing countries. But the news here in the U.S. always showed women from my community as oppressed and needing to be saved. I really felt the need to create a platform for women and girls from the developing world to tell their own stories.”
Imbued with her parents’ entrepreneurial spirit and compassion, Lila founded Connecther, a crowd-funding platform that uses the internet to help women and girls, a vast and marginalized segment of society worldwide.
“When you hear some of the injustices that women and girls must endure globally, it makes your heart sink. At that point a person needs to decide, do they want to help or hide?”
Lila says she has long had a vision for aiding women by utilizing social networks for global good. The Connecther platform matches donors with projects that produce the greatest impact for women and children.
“We highlight women and girls who are strong and doing amazing things in their communities and invest in them.”
It’s easy for donors to go to the site and search for a project they want to fund by interest and location or they can scroll through the most popular projects at the time. One of Lila’s favorites provides scholarships for the most promising girls in Senegal, Africa. Twenty-five dollars funds a year’s tuition.
“Imagine giving a girl that opportunity that she would not otherwise have! It’s a remarkable feeling.”
There are also projects in Rwanda, Nepal, Niger, Afghanistan, Burma and Chad, to name a few.
Like her parents, Lila believes that the seeds of social justice must be planted early and at home. That’s why her three children were raised with a clear message.
“One of the most important things we can teach our kids is to help those in need. It’s one of our top values as a family to give back. When they see an injustice like poverty, violence against women, homelessness, they can’t just stand by; they have to do something.”
Lila and Connecther also teamed up with several Harvard students to launch a Girls Impact the World Film Festival, an international contest which calls on the creativity of students around the world, inviting them to submit short films that spotlight the most critical issues affecting their daily lives, such as domestic violence.
“Connecther is the longest thing I've ever stuck with,” says Lila, “because I see the opportunities for women and girls that we're creating every day. It’s addictive. There is so much to do and so little time!