Zoë Timms, Founding Executive Director, first went to Hyderabad, India in 1996 as a student of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Year-in-India Program. There she was introduced to educational, grassroots NGOs, helping former girl child laborers study for the first time. Later, in 2001-2004, directing the Wisconsin program in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Zoë worked with a young woman whose dream to obtain an MBA and enter a career in finance were blocked by serious family illness and debt. Zoë realized there were countless ambitious young women in similar circumstances. She thought about the obstacles they faced and the steps it would take to remove them. The idea of creating a Center where young women could meet, develop skills, focus their ambitions, and expand their awareness of life’s possibilities was born. Zoë returned to New York to raise the money for her friend’s scholarship and recruited others to the cause.
Sudar, WEP’s first Center, opened in Madurai in 2002. This was followed by Hyderabad in 2007 and Kadapa in 2012. In 2016, WEP-India was established in Bangalore with its own Board and in-Country Director.