Catalina Escobar: how social entrepreneurship can empower women and help children

The JuanFe Foundation | Catalina Escobar, the activist

Colombian Catalina Escobar started the JuanFe foundation in 2001 with the dream to transform the lives of vulnerable children and teenage women in her city. Today, her organization has helped break the cycle of poverty for thousands of real Colombian women. It has also effectively reduced child mortality in Cartagena (HiCue Speakers, n.d). Keep reading to discover the work of this outstanding social entrepreneur.

The JuanFe Foundation

Two tragedies shaped Catalina Escobar to become a social entrepreneur. In 2000, she witnessed the death of a days-old baby in a Cartagena hospital because his teenage mother could not procure a small sum of money to treat him. Within days, her own infant son passed away in a domestic accident (Fundación Juanfe, n.d.).

Such terrible experiences pushed Escobar to create an organization to help young, underprivileged mothers and their children. Today, the JuanFe Foundation, named after her son, offers health, education, and employment services to teenage mothers in Cartagena, Medellín, Panama City, and Santiago de Chile (Fundación Juanfe, n.d.).

These are some of the foundation’s most prominent achievements in the last twenty years (Fundación Juanfe, n.d; HiCue Speakers, n.d; DW, 2021):

  • Its medical center has saved the lives of over 4.600 children.
  • During its first seven years, the foundation helped reduce Cartagena’s child mortality rate by 81%.
  • It has worked with 3.400 girls and pregnant young women to help them become breadwinners for their families.
  • The organization has trained over 245.000 people in technical skills needed in their local job market.

Breaking the cycle of poverty for young mothers

Escobar’s organization is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty for marginalized teenage mothers. It does it by improving their living conditions through education and job opportunities. As a result, vulnerable Colombian women have the tools to become economically independent and to grow confident in their abilities (Fundación Juanfe, n.d.).

Catalina Escobar, the activist

Catalina Escobar has devoted her adult life to empowering women and girls. Through her work and activism, she has strengthened their voice to fight for their dignity and rights. Escobar is also a tireless promoter of social impact, social entrepreneurship, sustainable leadership, and gender equality (HiCue Speakers, n.d.).

For taking her courage and hard-working nature (some of the main characteristics of a Colombian woman) to incredible heights and using them to serve others, she was the first Latin woman to be in CNN’s top ten Heroes in 2012 (HiCue Speakers, n.d.).

Furthermore, she has received multiple entrepreneurship and leadership awards and accolades in Colombia and worldwide. The Fortune-U.S. Department of State Global Women’s Mentoring partnership made her a 2012 recipient as an emerging woman global leader. She also received Babson College’s Lewis Institute Changemaker Award and the World of Children Humanitarian Award. Additionally, she was named 2015’s Social Entrepreneur by the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation (HiCue Speakers, n.d.).

Many Colombian women are dedicated to social entrepreneurship, such as Natalia Ponce de León and Johana Bahamón. They find inspiration in leaders with a heart like Catalina Escobar.


DW. (2021). Catalina Escobar: “Juanfe me invita a trabajar por la humanidad”. Retrieved from

Fundación Juanfe. (n.d.). La solución. Retrieved from

Fundación Juanfe. (n.d.). Nuestra historia. Retrieved from

Fundación Juanfe. (n.d.). Nuestro objetivo. Retrieved from

HiCue Speakers. (n.d.). Catalina Escobar. Retrieved from