Great Ydeas – Where are they now with Ritu Clementi

9 March 2017

Great Ydeas is YWCA Canberra’s small grants program, providing up to $2,000 to women to help kickstart a great idea for a business, community development project, or to support professional development or education and training opportunities. Applications for the 2017 Great Ydeas program are open until March 30, and to celebrate, we’ll be featuring some of our amazing past recipients over the next few weeks to highlight what can be achieved through the program.

Ritu Clementi is a 2016 Great Ydeas Grant recipient, who launched  the Girls Leadership Network earlier this year. Here, she talks about how the grant enabled her to get her project off the ground, and why she’s passionate about providing leadership opportunities for young women.

“Announcing the launch of the Girls Leadership Network, a non-profit ACT based initiative designed to empower girls to Dream, Believe, Achieve – and reach their leadership potential! Funded by a YWCA Canberra Great Ydeas grant, the Network is open to all girls in years 11 and 12 in the ACT.”

That is the beginning of our first press release – one of many firsts in the creating of our new organisation, The Girls Leadership Network. The initiative started with having an idea, doing research, making a proposal, getting a grant, and now we’re working to make it a reality.

What is the Girls Leadership Network?

The Girls Leadership Network was originally funded by a YWCA Canberra Great Ydeas grant, which I received in 2016. The Network is open to all girls in years 11 and 12 in the ACT, and focusses on the primary concept that leadership is a skill that can be learned. If we want more women leaders, we have to start with the girls in our community.

We set out to gather a group of about 25 girls from Canberra and take them through the journey of learning about themselves, helping them to identify the things they do well, and to develop the skills to lead others. The program will see this group take part in a total of five monthly workshops, and provide them with an opportunity to hear from a range of speakers, ultimately supporting them to grow their leadership skills within a cohort of like-minded people. In between the workshops, we will continue communication through a private group on Facebook, where the girls will be given some challenges to apply to their everyday life. They’ll work together in the workshop and online during the five month series.

How did you come up with this idea?

I had done a similar program in the US, which was very successful, and recognised by Nike with a diversity award.

I started by doing my research – I wanted to find out whether anything similar already existed in Canberra.  I knew that YWCA Canberra has their She Leads College Conference, a one day event, but I couldn’t find anything that offered an ongoing series of events to let girls gradually build their skills and their network. I also spoke with Hannah Wandel, the CEO of Country to Canberra, a not-for profit organisation bringing girls from rural Australia to Canberra (and also a previous Great Ydeas grant recipient).

I wanted to focus on developing leadership here in the ACT, and after conducting my research, I realised my idea was unique and could complement what was already being done. My 17 year old daughter, Asha, also provided lots of input!

How has the grant assisted in achieving your potential?

I was really excited to receive the grant in 2016, and a little intimidated too. Now, the challenge was to do the hard work to make the Girls Leadership Network a reality. One of the first major steps was to find the right partners. Soon after receiving the grant, I met Wendy Marman, a leadership consultant who had led a workshop that my 17 year old daughter, Asha, had participated in, and came back raving about. I was thrilled when Wendy said she would be very excited to participate in the program.

Wendy is currently designing all of the content of the workshops. My daughter, Asha, has also been a huge asset to the development of the program. What better way to create a program than having the target audience actually help do it with you? So over the past few months, I have seen the program evolve from one individual applying for a grant, to a team talented women determined to make this a success.

I’ll be using the money for materials, food for the girls, and I have some saved in case I need to pay a speaker fee. I’ve been very careful with costs – for example, to have a more centrally located CBD space for the workshops would have cost us $500 – a fourth of our budget. So, we have found space in a school instead.

More than the funds, the grant has lent an air of credibility to the project. By saying this project was funded by a YWCA Canberra Great Ydeas grant, I got more buy-in from Principals, who helped to share information about the program with their students.

Tell us a bit about the impact that the Girls Leadership Network has on the lives of women?

We are just starting, so we’ll see about what impact this has on girls in Canberra. But, we strongly believe that a program like this help girls to be more confident, to know that they should raise their hand to participate.  We want them to know who they are and that they can do anything they put their minds to doing.  We are getting in applications and one of the girls wrote, “My personal leadership goal is to be more brave and courageous and learn how to stand up for what I believe in.”  Another wrote,” I hope to meet like-minded girls who are interested in developing leadership and strong friendships for the future.”

Where to from here?

At this point in time, Asha, Wendy and I are getting closer to making the Girls Leadership Network a reality.  We’ve created a Facebook page, created an application for the girls, and have gotten publicity.  I started by creating a press release.  Our press release attracted the attention of Canberra Weekly, which immediately called to write an article. And then HerCanberra also picked up the article. The publicity was great for spreading the word and making our program more legitimate. We have also had two amazing volunteers, Catherine Mcgufficke and Ladan Amirazizi come on board, after learning about the program from the publicity, and they have lightened our work load considerably!

Our workshop dates are 1 March, 29 March, 26 April, 27 May, and 21 June. We have speakers lined up for our 1 March and 26 April.  I wanted a mix of “wow” speakers and everyday relatable speakers. For our first workshop, our speaker will speak on the topic of knowing yourself – and being authentic.  On April 26, we will explore the topic “the Winding Path and emotional resilience”, and discuss the idea that the path to your goals is not always linear. We will hear from a young woman who got a 54 on her ATAR, and subsequently went to university, and found her passion.

I am also looking to find some “wow” speakers – and we are contacting Olympians, our Government leaders, etc.  I would love to get Katy Gallagher, Gai Brodtmann, or another female ACT government leader.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions for the girls!

Our dream is to make this an ongoing program, offered every year.  But, we need to first make the 2017 a pilot a success. Wish us luck!

You learn more about the Girls Leadership Network on their Facebook page, or by emailing

Applications for the 2017 Great Ydeas Small Grants program are open until 30 March. Visit our website for more information on how to apply.

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