The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge is the first-of-its-kind global business competition for women entrepreneurs who are advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and inspiring entire communities to act to create the world we want by 2030. The WE Empower Challenge honors women entrepreneurs who are advancing the SDGs through their business practices. The WE Empower Awardees this year will participate in a series of virtual gatherings and trainings, and have the opportunity participate in a dynamic pitch competition hosted by fashion designer, activist and Vital Voices Board Member Diane von Furstenberg, to present their business for the chance to receive a $20,000 grant.
The goal of this program is to honor the innovative women entrepreneurs who are achieving the SDGs through sustainable business practices, investing in the most inspiring and transformative women entrepreneurs and ignite awareness among a global community of stakeholders on the value women entrepreneurs are contributing and can contribute to the SDGs.
World Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Founder and CEO, Kalahari Honey
Nduchwa is the founder and CEO of Kalahari Honey, a social enterprise that uses Beekeeping as a tool to mitigate human and wildlife conflict while transforming rural communities. Botswana is home to the world’s largest elephant population, every year farmers lose their lives and their crops due to elephants. Kalahari Honey trains and supplies rural women in elephant-infested areas with beehives that they use as living fences along their farms. The beehives create a natural barrier as elephants hate bees and therefore keep away from the farms. The women then harvest the honey from the beehives, which Kalahari Honey buys back and sells as raw organic desert honey, creating a new source of income for the more than 500 rural women they work with.
Sustainable Development Goals 2 (Zero Hunger), 5 (Gender Equality), and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities)
World Region: Asia-Pacific
Founder and Managing Director, SoilCyclers
Alison Price is the Founder and Managing Director of SoilCyclers, a business working with construction, waste and mining industry clients to recycle unsuitable materials on their sites and transform them into materials they can use in their projects. Their mission is to make onsite recycling ‘business as usual’ for these industries by providing innovative, cost-effective and planet-saving solutions that reduce the use of virgin resources, avoid the risk of importing contamination to sites and transform onsite waste into reusable materials. Each year, they recycle around half a million cubic meters of soil and take about 30,000 truckloads of waste off local roads. The business also creates high paying jobs for women and young people in a traditionally male-dominated industry through their Trainee Plant Operator program.
Sustainable Development Goals 5 (Gender Equality), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and 13 (Climate Action)
Sarah El Battouty
World Region: Greater Middle East and North Africa
Sarah El Battouty is the founder of ECOnsult, an award-winning architecture and environmental strategy company aimed to change the way buildings are made in Egypt. Their mission is to make affordable green buildings that save energy, water, and materials, not only accommodating the needs of the business, but also the community that surrounds the structure. ECOnsult does this by creating partnerships with local and affordable supply chains, employing local labor for projects, and using up to 70% recycled materials in interior designs. As the only company in Egypt pioneering a sustainable, localized design model, ECOnsult is also proud to be an equal pay certified, women-owned company with staff that is 50% women in a male-dominated sector.
Sustainable Development Goals 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and 13 (Climate Action)
World Region: Greater Middle East and North Africa
Danielle Sharaf is the founder of Switch, a mobile solutions company that produces content rich SMS, IVR (interactive voice response) and digital solutions for mobile users in developing markets. Through their mission “Mobile For Change,” Switch focuses on text messages and audio services since 65% of people in Pakistan still use basic mobile telephone services without internet access. Switch-ITC reaches out to over 17 million mobile users through their services in healthcare, education, financial inclusion, agriculture and career development, providing them with reliable information, learning platforms and connecting them to socioeconomic growth opportunities. In response to COVID-19 Switch has been pushing out text and audio content on virus information reaching about 2.7 million Pakistanis in rural areas and in their regional languages.
Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), 4 (Quality Education) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).
World Region: Latin America & the Caribbean
Valrie Grant is the founder of GeoTechVision, a business that uses Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to deliver sustainable solutions that positively impact communities. The business uses innovative spatial technologies to support smart city solutions while also enabling and developing underserved and underrepresented students with technology tools to bridge the digital divide. They work with and educate women entrepreneurs, Girls in Technology and Caribbean Governments as to how to use location information to implement solutions that impact the SDGs. GeoTechVision exposes them to STEM through various initiatives such as technology camps, mentorship and girls in ICT and GIS day functions.
Sustainable Development Goals 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality), and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
World Region: Europe, North America & Other
Co-Founder, Cloud to Street
United States of America
Bessie Schwarz is the co-founder of Cloud to Street, the leading flood mapping platform designed to protect the world’s most climate-vulnerable communities. By harnessing global satellites, advanced science, and community intelligence, they monitor worldwide floods in near real-time and remotely analyze local flood exposure. Their mission is to ensure that all vulnerable governments access the high quality information they need to prepare for and respond to increasing catastrophes. Cloud to Street is or has been used by governments across 15 countries and is on track to enable new flood protection and insurance for 10 million people in the next 5 years.
Sustainable Development Goals 2 (Zero Hunger), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and 13 (Climate Action).