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5 female entrepreneurs win first WE Empower UN SDG Challenge

Winners are developing sustainability-focused businesses around the world

A woman weaves at a traditional loom

In its inaugural year, the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge is supporting a diverse array of sustainability-focused businesses developed by women around the world.

August 10, 2018

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, along with Vital Voices, the United Nations Foundation and many other partners, has announced the winners of the inaugural WE Empower U.N. Sustainable Development Goals Challenge. Five female entrepreneurs, representing each of the five U.N. regions, were selected to attend the U.N. Global Goals Week in September and to receive training and support for their efforts to empower women and improve sustainability in their fields.

The winning submissions are diverse and innovative:

• Habiba Ali, Africa — Ali founded Nigerian company Sosai, which brings renewable-energy technologies to the most rural of users, improving access to clean, affordable energy and providing clean water and better health outcomes.

• Hadeel Anabtawi, Asia-Pacific — Anabtawi founded the Alchemist Lab, whose educational programs, including Go Girls!, have reached more than 25,000 children in Jordan’s largest city, Amman, as well as remote villages and refugee camps.

• Marijana Savić, Eastern Europe — Savić founded Serbian NGO Atina to combat human trafficking and all forms of violence against women. Atina’s eatery, Bagel Bejgl, provides financing, skills training and professional education to help victims in transition.

• Marta Del Rio, Latin America & Caribbean — Del Rio co-founded organic snack company MAIA to fight poverty and transform Peruvian agriculture, providing training and technical assistance to smallholder farmers and sourcing ingredients from them at a fair price.

• Shimrit Finkel, Western Europe & Other — Finkel co-founded ECOncrete in 2012. The Israeli company’s durable and environmentally sensitive concretes harness natural processes to enhance growth of carbon-absorbing marine life on coastal infrastructure.

Applications were reviewed with the help of student judges from ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the School of Sustainability. One ASU student judge will also be selected to attend the U.N. Global Goals week.

"We received 150 strong applications from women leaders across the globe doing wonderful work to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Amanda Ellis, who is senior special adviser for international diplomacy, sustainable development and inclusion at the ASU Wrigley Institute.

“The applications were truly impressive, and we look forward to supporting and encouraging these women leaders in their commitment to advancing sustainability and engaging their respective communities to create a positive multiplier effect,” Ellis said.

The WE Empower U.N. SDG Challenge was conceived as a global business competition for female entrepreneurs who are advancing the U.N. sustainable development goals and inspiring entire communities to create the world we want by 2030. The competition will honor and invest in entrepreneurs while igniting awareness of their work. Winners receive access to unique trainings, capacity building and a network of their peers.

Learn more about the winners, the challenge, the prizes and the opportunities.

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