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These women are impacting our world |


These women are impacting our world

CULTURE VULTURE - Therese Jamora-Garceau - The Philippine Star
These women are impacting our world
Forces for good: The 2024 Cartier Women’s Initiative awardees at the Bay Opera of Shenzhen in China

SHENZHEN, China — Startups that teach children through gaming, convert food waste into nutrition, and provide clean water to those that need it most — these were just a fraction of the game-changing, female-led companies that the Cartier Women’s Initiative (CWI) awarded on May 22 to 33 women impact entrepreneurs from all over the world. The awards ceremony was fittingly held in Shenzhen, China’s progressive hub of entrepreneurship.

Since 2006, CWI has awarded the top three businesses in nine regions and two thematic awards, for Science & Technology Pioneers and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. The winners are given financial support: first-place awardees receive US$100,000 in grant funding, while the second- and third-place awardees are granted $60,000 and $30,000, respectively. Fellows can also access the CWI Loan Fund, which offers loans up to $200,000 at preferential interest rates.

For this 17th edition, Cartier vetted 1,500 applicants and recognized the top 33 fellows, for the first time awarding women from Peru, Morocco and Vietnam.

“Cartier being so much driven for women of activity, and also having more than two thirds of our colleagues being women, it’s kind of natural,” said Cyrille Vigneron, president and CEO of Cartier SA, on why they choose to invest in women. “Because all these young entrepreneurs are really changing the world one project at a time.”

This year’s theme is “Forces for Good,” which emphasizes the importance of collective action to spark positive change. “Seventeen years on, this pioneering program champions and celebrates a global network of women entrepreneurs to address the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time,” says Cécile Naour, CEO of Cartier China. “We’re here to support these amazing entrepreneurs and continue to foster the ripple effect.”

In 2019 we had our own winning fellow from the Philippines: Carmina Bayombong of InvestEd, which provides education financing for poor and low-income students. Bayombong won second place under the Creating Opportunities category of the awards and was recognized again as an Impact Awardee in 2021.

“Carmina from InvestEd is very innovative, very passionate around student loans,” observes Wingee Sin, director of the Cartier Women’s Initiative. “And when you look at her business, where it is now, she’s a Cartier Loan Fund borrower also, so she’s definitely delivering impact and we’re hoping to support her via additional working capital.”

A surprise guest at the awards ceremony was Karlie Kloss. The supermodel is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded Kode with Klossy, a nonprofit that gives coding summer camps to young women, helping them pursue their passions in a tech-driven world. “At the end of 2023, Kode with Klossy had more than 10,000 alumni who have gone through our programs, and we’ll have a few thousand more this summer,” Kloss noted. “We have come so far and I could not be more proud.”

Kloss’s social enterprise fits in perfectly with CWI’s vision. Next year instead of having an open call for applicants, CWI will have a women’s pavilion at Expo 2025 in Osaka, Japan, where they will honor past winners as Impact Awardees.

Sin put it perfectly: “These women aren’t just shaping businesses as a force for good; they’re revolutionizing the identity of a woman.”

East Asia

(From left) 1st place: Jiwon Park, Saib & Co.

In South Korea, discussions about female sexuality and sexual wellness remain largely taboo, leading to health issues or unintended pregnancies. Saib (the reverse of “bias”) offers female-friendly, toxin-free contraceptives and intimate hygiene products in portable, discreet packaging. “We wanted Saib’s brand and packaging to be female-focused so women can use it without shame or hesitation,” Park says.

2nd place: Emily Yu, Ginger Ah

Breast-cancer patients often resort to altering their bras themselves after surgery, so lingerie designer Yu created Ginger Ah’s innovative, two-piece bra line with adjustable silicone-foam inserts to help them achieve a natural-looking bust.

3rd place: Xintong Du, VoiceChanger

VoiceChanger offers in-person and online therapy and rehabilitation for speech-impaired children aged two to 16.


1st: Simran Kaur, Girls that Invest

“No one saves their way to wealth.” Operating from this principle, Kaur teaches other women how to start up seven-figure side hustles. Her podcast has been downloaded six million times and nearly 6,000 women have participated in the six-week intensive masterclass. “Every woman should have the tools and confidence to make informed investment decisions,” Kaur says.

2nd: Alison Harrington, Resparke

Harrington started Resparke when she discovered that music could improve the wellbeing of dementia sufferers. The app personalizes the experience using language, nationality, religion, age and music preferences.

3rd: Frances Bilbao, Mums Matter Technology

Bilbao founded Mums Matter to support Australian women’s mental health during pregnancy and the first years of their babies’ lives through specialized in-person and online therapy.

South & Central Asia

1st: Mansi Jain, Digital Paani

Clean, safe water is a scarce commodity in India, so Jain developed a software platform to that manages the entire operations of private wastewater treatment plants so they can treat, recover and reuse contaminated water effectively. “Our mission is to build cutting-edge digital-management tools that protect natural water resources from contamination and accelerate the transition to clean cities with abundant water.”

2nd: Ira Guha, Asan

Every year, India loses US$87 billion in GDP due to workdays lost because of women’s periods. Disposable sanitary pads have also contributed to a waste crisis. Asan addresses “period poverty” and reduces solid waste pollution with an easy-to-insert, reusable menstrual cup.

3rd: Marina Tran-Vu, Equo

Inspired by the grass straws that farmers drank from, Equo produces 100% plastic-free and compostable products such as straws and utensils from grass, rice, coconut, sugarcane, and coffee.

Middle East & North Africa

1st: Salma Bougarrani, Green Watech

In Morocco, 14.6 million people live in rural areas where wastewater often ends up in water sources. Green Watech provides a soil-based filter system that treats domestic wastewater so it can be reused for agricultural irrigation, thus far producing over 11,000 tons of food. “Many rural people only have water four hours a day,” notes Bougarrani. “It’s hugely gratifying when they tell us this technology has changed their lives.”

2nd: Rania Gaafar, Adva

Adva helps self-employed and unbanked people get financing quickly by connecting them to financial institutions offering low-interest-rate loans.

3rd: Shahira Youssef, Chitosan Egypt

Chitosan offers high-performance organic and pesticide-free fertilizers, pesticides and nutritional products extracted from seafood waste.

Anglophone & Lusophone Africa

1st: Titi Adewusi, 9ijaKids

9ijaKids provides high-quality educational content via interactive games, enabling over 150,000 children to learn everything from math and science to financial literacy from more than 300 games. “The possibilities are endless for using gamified learning to empower African youth in a way that’s both effective and effortless,” Adewusi says.

2nd: Claire Van Enk, Farm to Feed

After witnessing the amount of food wasted at the farm level, Farm to Feed buys surplus produce from farmers then donates it to food-insecure communities.

3rd: June Muchuku, Plumbee

Plumbee is a food-processing company that partners with rural female farmers and low-income women to provide underserved children with nutritious food using locally sourced ingredients.

Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa

1st: Isabelle Kamariza, Solid’Africa

Solid’Africa addresses inadequate nutrition in hospitals with direct monetary support. The company’s farm-to-fork approach includes medically tailored meals, and its new culinary arts school trains students to optimize the nutritional content of meals. “When you see somebody getting better because of a meal, it reminds me I’m working for the patient, not for me,” Kamariza says.

2nd: Jessica Long, Maad

In Senegal, distribution challenges mean the shelves of small retail stores are often empty. Long started Maad, an ecommerce marketplace, to directly connect brands to small retailers, increase their purchasing power, provide access to financial services, data analytics, and even transport to speed delivery and lower costs.

3rd: Victoria Munguti, HeptaPay

In Rwanda and other East African countries, most families rely on remittances from abroad. HeptaPay allows debit or credit card payments directly into mobile money wallets from anywhere in the world and charges the sender a flat 4% fee, regardless of transaction amount.


1st: Mira Nameth, Biophilica

Leather is the world’s most destructive textile, consuming massive amounts of water and polluting the air. Biophilica offers a 100% plastic-free alternative, Treekind, made from leaves and other raw materials that are biodegradable and home compostable. “It doesn’t put harmful chemicals into the environment or contribute to plastic pollution in our oceans.”

2nd: Amaia Rodriguez, Gravity Wave

Forty percent of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from fishing gear, especially nets, so Gravity Wave partners with Mediterranean fishermen to collect plastic waste and fishing nets that it then recycles and transforms into furniture and other products.

3rd: Laura Harnett, Seep

Unable to find plastic-free sponges in her local supermarket, Harnett founded Seep, which makes zero-plastic, high-quality cleaning accessories from natural, renewable sources like wood pulp, plant-based viscose, maize and bamboo.

North America

1st: Julia Taylor, GeekPack

Ninety percent of today’s jobs require digital skills, yet a third of US workers, particularly women, lack these skills. GeekPack has taught over 8,500 women these skills, and Taylor’s vision is to reach a million women by 2030. “We want our community to be like a mirror so anyone who’s not part of it can say, ‘She looks like me.’”

2nd: Jessica Menon, Equilo

Equilo’s advanced analytics tools reduce the time needed to collect, analyze and report on gender data by five to six weeks, saving around 90% of the cost of manual methods.

3rd: Kyla Bolden, Wiz Kid Learning

After seeing that coding skills enable college grads to get jobs quicker, Bolden created a learning platform that provides coding and STEM classes to children and underserved communities.

Latin America & The Caribbean

1st: Marlene Molero Suarez, Elsa

After witnessing victims of sexual harassment in the workplace silenced by fear, lawyer Suarez developed a software platform that tracks and analyzes employee data to create strategies tailored to help each organization deal with the problem. “Companies used to sweep sexual harassment under the carpet, but now they are proud to say they are addressing it,” Suarez says.

2nd: Isabela Chusid, Linus

Linus produces 100% recyclable, eco-friendly PVC sandals made from 70% renewable sources. The sandals are certified vegan and produced entirely in Brazil to lower emissions.

3rd: Mercedes Bidart, Quipu

To help microbusinesses access capital quickly, Bidart’s AI-based Quipu app assesses credit worthiness and customers can apply in minutes for working capital that is disbursed in less than two days.

Science & Technology Pioneer

1st: Lynne Lim, NousQ

While on a medical mission in rural Cambodia, Lim was devastated when she had to turn away hundreds of children needing surgery for “glue ear” because she lacked the necessary equipment. So she created CLiKX, the world’s first handheld robotic device that allows doctors to insert ear tubes with the click of a button in a second, under local anesthesia, in a clinic rather than an operating room. “We hope to address the unmet needs of millions of children and democratize access to care,” she says.

2nd: Ninna Granucci, Green Spot Technologies

One-third of global food production goes to waste, so Green Spot’s patented fermentation approach to upcycling food production side streams has resulted in meat and cocoa powder substitutes and ingredients for baked goods that they provide to large food producers.

3rd: Monika Tomecka, Ufraction8

Lab-grown meat uses 96% less water, emits 87% less greenhouse gases and uses 90% less land compared to livestock production. Dr. Tomecka developed microfluidics-based filter systems that can help bio-manufacturers harvest and process products more efficiently, in larger quantities, using a quarter of the energy of existing technologies.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

1st: Sadriye Gorece, BlindLook

Daily tasks like ordering food are not easy for the 285 million visually impaired people worldwide. BlindLook is an AI-powered, audio-based platform that makes products and services comprehensible to the blind. “Life is not equal for a blind person,” she says. “Creating that level of equality is what drives us.”

2nd: Akshita Sachdeva, Trestle Labs

In India, Braille books and audiobooks can be inaccessible to the visually impaired, so Trestle Lab’s device KIBO (Knowledge in a Box) has digitized over a million books and made them available to over 600 institutions and 100,000 users in 25 countries since its 2019 launch.

3rd: Erica Cole, No Limbits

The idea for No Limbits came to Cole when she lost her leg in an accident and began altering clothes to fit over her prosthesis. Now her company offers ready-to-wear clothing lines tailored for ease of dressing, comfort and convenience to the disabled community, including wheelchair users and people with limited dexterity or sensory-processing disorders.


Follow the author on Facebook and Instagram @theresejamoragarceau.

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