Hosted on Artsteps, this year’s SHE IS MORE Global Youth Art Competition of the IIX Foundation raised funds to empower women in the global South

By Annita Apostolaki

Wonderful things happen when people with similar visions join forces. In Artsteps, we want to give to every web user the opportunity to take their first steps in the Metaverse and explore their creative skills by building 3D virtual environments to place their content and profit from it. That is why it was a pleasure to partner for a virtual exhibition with the IIX Foundation, a Singapore-based charity that gives underprivileged women and their grass roots initiatives access to resources and financial literacy, in order to help them achieve their potential and bring them to the forefront of capital markets, as a form of sustainable investment.

Detail of the VR gallery created by the IIX Foundation for the exhibition of the awarded works at the SHE IS MORE 2022 youth art competition

Helping women to help their communities
What is sustainable investing? According to Harvard Business School, the term refers to a range of practices in which investors aim to achieve financial returns while promoting long-term environmental or social value. This means that, instead of focusing solely on short-term financial gains, investing firms are now called to look at the broader picture of what and how they contribute to society.

A pioneer and global leader in the field is Impact Investment Exchange (IIX). Founded in 2009 by Professor Durreen Shahnaz, the “world’s first social stock exchange” supports businesses that empower communities in developing countries by providing them with development solutions that will help them scale successfully. The ultimate aim is to aid a billion people to lead sustainable lives by 2030.

A vital part in this mission is its sister entity, the IIX Foundation. Since 2010, the organization has been educating women and teaching them skills to start and grow their own businesses, in order to not only earn better livelihoods, but also impact more women in return. As Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris, recently said: “Lift up the economic status of women, and all of society benefits.”

The main instrument in the effort of the IIX Foundation to raise awareness and create a gender equal world for the next generation is its annual flagship competition, SHE IS MORE. Young creators from all over the world are invited through an open call to celebrate inclusivity by submitting works that illustrate their personal views on a particular theme around women’s empowerment. This year’s theme was “Resilience”, given that the world is seeing a rise in refugee women, who are displaced due to the effects of warfare and climate change on their environment.

Detail of the VR gallery created by the IIX Foundation with the awarded works at the SHE IS MORE 2022 youth art competition

The many faces of resilience
As many as 250 children and teenagers from 32 countries participated in SHE IS MORE 2022 for a chance to win great awards and see their work exhibited in IIX Foundation’s Artsteps virtual gallery. After over a month of deliberation, the judges finally reached a decision on the grand prize winners and the runner-ups in both the 10–13 y.o. and 14–17 y.o. categories. The winning artworks, as well as those of the rest of the finalists, can now be viewed in the private space of the IIX Foundation on Artsteps.

The skill of the creators of the entries displayed in IIX Foundation’s Artsteps virtual gallery is truly remarkable, considering their young age. Looking at the delicate line work and intricate but balanced composition of the female portrait “she is beautiful nature” by Krittamet Khamprom from Thailand, who won in the 14–17 y.o. category, as well as the colour and pensive face of the model depicted on Rose Zhang’s “Divinity”, the second runner up in the category, it is hard not to be impressed by the fact that they are 17 and 16 years old respectively. It is also interesting that they both approached female resilience in a different way: Khamprom drew -literally and metaphorically- parallels between the resilience of women and nature, while for Zhang being resilient is remaining true to her East Asian heritage while living in the Western environment of New Zealand.

Equally varied were the takes of the 10–13 year old participants on the theme of “Resilience”, as shown from the works that were awarded in the category. The 13-year old winner from Singapore Natalie Teo Zi Ning’s “Equality of sports” refers to the adverse conditions despite which women thrive in the field, while 10-year old Xiong Guanyun shares with “The Light of Motherhood” the inspiring story of his mother, who, as a team leader in a tech giant in China, managed to avoid layoffs during the Covid-19 pandemic considering the families of each coworker. Nevertheless, it is “She”, the simple work of 11-year old Ukrainian Amina Grynenko depicting a mother who runs from the war with a little boy in her hands that makes a lasting impact on the viewer.

If you want to support the efforts of the IIX Foundation to empower exceptional but underprivileged women, you can make a donation here.

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