After completing their MSc in Sustainable Development at St Andrews, Amy Louisa Cowan and Annika Scharbert are applying the skills and knowledge they learned in the classroom to improve gender equality and women’s empowerment in Vietnam.
Amy and Annika were first drawn to the Bubble by the interdisciplinary teaching methods of a Sustainable Development degree. During their studies they learned how communities can come together to tackle some of the world’s largest challenges. Field trips, like the one to the eco-village of Findhorn in northern Scotland, showed them the possibility of sustainable living through the practical application of transition theory.
While at St Andrews, Annika and Amy used the knowledge gained through their courses to conduct community-led research that aimed to deliver real improvements to their surroundings. Amy’s action research project focused on the issue of food waste in halls of residence at the University.
Upon graduation Amy worked in the field of development in Vietnam while Annika wrote her PhD thesis on sustainability-driven entrepreneurship. The accumulation of these life experiences led them to start The intiMate Initiative®. While officially launched in May 2015, The intiMate Initiative® has been a long time in the making. Amy moved to Vietnam in 2012 and three years later, when Annika came to visit, they decided it was time to “get their hands dirty.” They are passionate about expanding access to sexual health information for young people in Vietnam, grounded in the belief that education plays a key role in empowering people to make informed and smart decisions about their bodies and sexual relationships.
They have received incredible support from the University, including the opportunities to participate in Enterprise Week and on a panel on social entrepreneurship. The relationship with the University and its students is important to Amy and Annika, and is something they are maintaining today. They are currently working closely with the student enterprise SAVE which sells menstrual cups to university students—and published a post about their efforts on The intiMate Initiative®’s blog.