In a spirit of engagement and empowerment, the 2017 ceremony of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards was held at the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall in Singapore. Celebrating women entrepreneurs under the theme “Transform. Lead the change you want to see”, the event brought together speakers and change makers passionate about women’s vision and values.
This year’s six laureates were selected by an independent international jury out of nearly 1,900 applicants from over 120 countries. Here, the honorees:
1. CANDICE PASCOAL, Brazil
When financial crisis hit Brazil, funding dried up for NGOs, activists, artists and entrepreneurs, stifling the country’s creative economy and slowing down development and innovation, this was a problem Candice Pascoal felt she could help address. Candice’s company, Kickante, is a real success story in Brazil’s spiralling economy. Founded in 2013, Kickante is a pioneering crowdfunding site set up to connect campaign creators with financial contributors who want to help a project succeed.
After just two years Kickante became the largest crowdfunding platform in Brazil, impacting the lives of 25,000 artists, charities and entrepreneurs, inspiring another 500,000 Brazilians to donate and introducing crowdfunding to more than 50 million Brazilians. The company’s rise, which has been compared to the rapid rise of Indiegogo in the US, is fuelled by a number of world first innovations not previously seen in the crowdfunding sector, as well as elements tailored to a Brazilian audience.
2. KATIE ANDERSON, USA
The World Economic Forum has cited water crises as the top global risk for business and society in the coming decade. One innovative Dallas-based entrepreneur, who is on a mission to save water, has launched a business retrofitting kitchen and bathroom fixtures in multi-family properties which is help save 30 million gallons of water a month.
Set up in April 2014 by 31-year-old Katie Anderson, Save Water Co. works with large commercial real estate owners and managers gathering unique data on water consumption and leakages of bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Originally from a small town in East Texas, 31-year-old Katie has a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science from Texas A&M University, and has fuelled her business by drawing on experience working as a commercial real estate appraiser, and four years at waste management company eConserve where she developed relationships and partnerships with property managers and owners. Bringing hard data to a critical issue that is difficult to quantify, she has assembled a team with backgrounds in energy, science, policy, agriculture and education, growing the company to 18 people.
3. CIARA DONLON, Ireland
Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in each year (Source: World Cancer Research Fund, 2016). Major advances in treatment mean that breast cancer survival is increasingly likely; however for women who have been through this ordeal, there are many major lifestyle changes that need to be made that are not often considered by lingerie manufacturers.
Seeing the distress this caused when breast cancer survivors came into 40-year-old Ciara Donlon's Dublin-based lingerie shop, she decided to explore the market to see if she could create a product that put the survivor's needs first. Breast cancer was particularly close to Ciara's heart as her grandmother Rose underwent a double mastectomy during breast cancer treatment. After securing a grant from Enterprise Ireland's first Female Feasibility Fund, Ciara was able to launch THEYA Healthcare, named after the Hindu Goddess, to reflect the strength of breast cancer survivors. THEYA Healthcare now teams up with experienced lingerie designer Kelly Lakin, designing and manufacturing garments that promote healing, offer exceptional comfort and functionality whilst looking beautiful.
4. SALMA ABDULAI, Ghana
Driven by a desire to tackle malnutrition and transform rural women’s lives, 31-year-old Salma Abdulai, from the impoverished, drought-prone North Ghana, launched Unique Quality Product Enterprise, a company which processes Fonio, a sustainable indigenous crop with extraordinary health benefits.
While nobody else thought of processing the almost extinct crop, Salma had a brainwave. Drawing on her extensive knowledge and academic experience – she holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Agriculture Technology and a postgraduate degree in Agricultural Economics – she discovered the potential of Fonio, which takes only eight weeks to mature, and is drought and flood-proof.
In 2014 she launched Unique Quality Product Enterprise, processing and marketing the cereal, registering farmers to produce the crop and building a team based in Tamale to process precooked Fonio for the markets. The business has a proven holistic approach to social, economic and environmental problems. It is also addressing food insecurity and unsustainable land management, particularly for landless female farmers with no access to fertile lands.
Salma started Unique Quality Product Enterprise with 10 landless women and to date, the business has supported 500 farmers – 350 women and 150 men – to produce raw Fonio for the enterprise. Products are marketed under the DIM Fonio brand – ‘dim’ means eat in the local language.
5. SARA-KRISTINA HANNIG NOUR, Egypt
Growing up on her family’s farm in Switzerland, Sara-Kristina Hannig Nour was accustomed to easy access to fresh produce. When Sara moved to Egypt to begin a Master’s Degree in organic farming at Cairo University she found that this was not always the case. Despite being blessed with hours of daily sunshine, Sara found that Egypt suffers from a dearth of healthy produce options, with city dwellers lacking access to high quality, healthy food. Sara says, “Arriving in Egypt six years ago, I was amazed by the produce available. I quickly came to realise that because of chemical and pesticide usage what looked beautiful on the outside was not always good for the inside.”
After selling organic cucumbers at a farmers’ market in Cairo, Sara realised Egyptians wanted to buy vegetables from a trustworthy source that was genuinely healthy. In January 2014, Egypt’s first foray into farm-to-table delivery was established, Sara and Lara's Baskets. They delivered weekly shipments of organic, seasonal produce, fresh from the field and direct to customers in the city, all in locally handwoven baskets.
A typical basket is composed of Sara’s Organic Food, grown on Desert Lake Farms, a formerly vast stretch of desert between Cairo and Alexandria, and Lara’s Premium Produce, sourced from neighbouring farms, which grow responsibly. The main crops grown are grapes, mangoes, pomegranates and dates, as well as a variety of vegetables and herbs. Desert Lake Farms, which is owned and operated by Sara’s family, is also home to a colony of bees, an egg laying flock of hens and animals adopted from a local shelter who provide manure for nutrient-rich compost.
The titular baskets are woven traditionally in the Monufia Governorate in northern Egypt, and are reusable. Baskets can be ordered online and cost between $US20 and $US45, depending on size and contents. Sara and Lara’s Baskets are proud to be truly environmentally friendly and ecologically sound. As their produce is delivered from the source direct to the customer, this reduces associated carbon emissions and the naturally grown and primarily organic produce retains nutrients usually lost through transport and shelf-sitting, meaning customers enjoy healthier eating compared with vegetables purchased from a traditional store.
6. TRUPTI JAIN, India
In India, more than 6.72 million hectares of land is affected by salinity and seasonal water logging and nearly 5 million small and marginal farmers, especially women farmers, have to bear the consequences of extreme weather patterns.
An innovative water management system is freeing smallholders in India from the challenges of seasonal water logging and water scarcity, transforming uncultivable land and ensuring food security for ultra-poor farmers. Naireeta Services, a social enterprise co-founded by 46-year-old Trupti Jain, is providing a sustainable solution for these drought and flood-affected farmers using an ingenious handmade pipe which lasts for up to 30 years. Bhungroo – which means straw or hollow pipe in Hindi – enables rainwater to be filtered, injected and stored underground for use during lean periods.
As well as boosting agri-income by an average of 300% and helping impoverished farmers become self-sufficient, Bhungroo is having a far reaching social impact on women in these communities. Women play an important role in the agricultural sector in India, in terms of both labour and indigenous knowledge about cropping patterns. “But somehow it’s not recognised by our community, our society and organisations. They are working as labourers on their own farm land, although they own their land. They don’t have their own stake or recognition."