Impact Stories from Entrepreneurship Policy Area
Fellows come together in online conference to inspire girls
Fellow(s): Gisele Beatrice Sonfack, Oluremi Hamid, Saida Yusupova, Lamia Fikrat
Country: Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, Uzbekistan
Cohort: 2016, 2019
2016 fellow of Cameroon Gisele Beatrice Sonfack recently gathered TechWomen fellows from Morocco, Nigeria and Uzbekistan to share their stories as women in engineering and speak about ways to inspire the next generation of girls. Gisele is the founder of Women in Engineering and Technology (WENTECH), an association that organizes workshops and conferences with a mission to inspire girls interested in STEM fields.
The online conference featured Gisele as well as 2016 fellow of Nigeria and CEO of Hydren Energy Oluremi Hamid, 2016 fellow of Uzbekistan and CEO of Green Business Innovation Saida Yusupova and 2019 fellow of Morocco Lamia Fikrat, a renewable energy and environment consultant. The audience, mostly comprised of young students and their parents, learned about the gender gap in STEM fields and why women have been historically underrepresented. Each fellow described their pathway to success, sharing how they remained motivated despite being outnumbered by men in their fields. They also answered questions from the students, encouraging them to pursue their interests and passions. Despite the cancelation of WENTECH’s scheduled in-person conferences, Gisele hopes to organize and record bi-monthly virtual conferences, making them available for a wider audience of girls.
Report Date...: 9/7/20
Fellow wins Volkswagen Lioness Den competition
Fellow(s): Bathabile Mpofu
Country: South Africa
This month, 2018 fellow Bathabile Mpofu was named the third prize winner of the Volkswagen Lioness Den competition, a pitch competition for women entrepreneurs leading innovative businesses on the African continent. The initiative is held in partnership with Lionesses of Africa, a social enterprise that supports and advances Africa’s women entrepreneurs.
Bathabile is the co-founder and managing director of Nkazimulo Applied Sciences, an initiative that encourages young children to discover a love of science through ChemStart, a series of portable, customizable science kits for various age groups. As third prize winner, Bathabile will use the funding to bring an educator onto her team who will record online science lessons. The lessons will be for sale on Nkazimulo’s website, but Bathabile plans to provide them to underserved schools free of charge.
Report Date...: 9/7/20
Mentor and fellows collaborate for Iraq’s first accelerator
Fellow(s): Eileen Brewer (mentor), Shahrazad Shehab, Shatha Jayyousi
Country: Jordan, Lebanon, United States
Cohort: 2013, 2019
Recently, longtime TechWomen mentor Eileen Brewer moved to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq to serve as the director of Takween Accelerator, Iraq’s first startup accelerator based at The American University of Iraq Sulaimani. This week, Takween selected 12 local startups for their first cohort as well as 18 mentors and experts to help train and develop the founders.
Of the 18 mentors selected are 2013 fellow of Jordan Shatha Jayyousi and 2019 fellow of Lebanon Shahrazad Shehab. Shatha is the digital factory manager at Orange Jordan as well as a co-founder of Code on the Road, a 2018 AEIF-winning project that empowers women, girls and vulnerable populations through ICT skills, business and entrepreneurship training. Shahrazad is the managing partner and digital strategist at Creative Consults as well as a digital marketing trainer. Over the next 18 months, Eileen, Shatha and Shahrazad will support the Iraqi entrepreneurs, training them on product and market development, creating sustainable business plans, pitching and more.
Report Date...: 9/7/20
Fellow launches agro-waste initiative to empower rural women
Fellow(s): Linah Anyango
In rural Kenya, women walk long distances to collect firewood for cooking in their homes. 2019 fellow Linah Anyango wanted to create a solution that would not only provide cleaner, cheaper and more renewable energy sources, but also bring income to the women and their communities. Her newly launched CBO, Kanyadhiang’ Briquettes Nyale – which translates to “Briquettes are our solution” – aims to use readily available agricultural waste to provide sustainable fuel for women in rural Kenya.
Inspiration for the project began with the Girls in STEM Club that Linah founded at her school. Together, Linah and her students create clean energy solutions from waste products, including using charcoal dust to make briquettes. “I extended this project to women in rural parts of Kenya, since women are the most affected when it comes to access to clean and renewable energy,” she says.
This month, Linah hosted a one-week training where she guided groups of women in making briquettes from agricultural waste. The training focused on making briquettes from water hyacinth, an invasive plant species that threatens water sources and creates health risks. Moving forward, Linah will use her network to help the women sell their briquettes. “Ensuring that women and girls have energy access is not just about women’s rights – it’s a fundamental human rights issue,” she says.
Report Date...: 8/31/20
Fellows collaborate for webinar on solar energy
Fellow(s): Aia Abul-Haj and Amaal Al-Khatabeh
2018 fellows Aia Abul-Haj and Amaal Al-Khatabeh were recently featured in a live webinar event, sharing their perspective on solar power and the future of energy. The webinar was hosted by Phi Science Institute, a Jordan-based non-profit that brings science education to youth in Jordan and the Arab world.
In “Outside the Barrel: Solar Energy, Opportunities and Challenges,” Aia, the co-founder of renewable energy company SOLVillion Co, and Amaal, a renewable energy engineer, discussed the latest solar technologies and entrepreneurship within the solar field. The attendees, comprised of new graduates and researchers, had the opportunity to ask Aia and Amaal about their career choices as well as solicit advice on breaking into the energy fields. The fellows also spoke about solar energy during the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing how Jordan and other parts of the world have responded to an increase in solar consumption.
Report Date...: 8/31/20
Fellows and U.S. Embassies debut Virtual STEAM Film Club
Fellow(s): Nisreen Deeb and Sabine Kai
Cohort: 2013, 2014
2013 fellows of Lebanon Nisreen Deeb and 2014 fellow Sabine Kai collaborated with the U.S. Embassies in Beirut and Algiers to introduce a STEAM film club for exchange alumni and the greater STEAM communities in Lebanon and Algeria. Alongside the U.S Embassy Beirut, the U.S Embassy of Algiers, the U.S Department of State, the American Film Showcase and The Collaboratory, Nisreen and Sabine debuted the Virtual Steam Film Club this month, bringing a monthly event focused on introducing STEAM fields. Participants are encouraged to watch a movie about the monthly topic prior to the event; during the virtual club, they engage in group discussions facilitated by high-profile guest speakers and facilitators. The fellows have also partnered with Coursera, who committed to providing free access and free certificates to STEAM-related courses for the club members.
Through the club, Nisreen and Sabine hope to engage exchange program alumni, foster STEAM partnerships between Lebanon and Algeria and provide professional development opportunities to STEAM enthusiasts. “Club members from both Lebanon and Algeria can get connected to each other and brainstorm ideas that might lead to projects about a topic of their interest,” says Nisreen. So far, Nisreen and Sabine have hosted five events themed on entrepreneurship in STEAM and environmental science. Their next event, held this week, will focus on ethics in science.
Report Date...: 8/24/20
Fellows launch Central Asia mentoring platform
Fellow(s): Elena Selezneva, Saida Yusupova
2016 fellows Elena Selezneva and Saida Yusupova have launched Mentoring Platform for Central Asia, an initiative that seeks to connect mentors to startups in Central Asia. The project is a part of Tech4Impact, an NGO the fellows established in 2019 to nurture IT, innovation, green tech and women’s entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan and throughout Central Asia. TECH4Impact’s programs include participation in a yearly Ideathon, startup conferences, Technovation Uzbekistan and more.
Through their new platform, the fellows will match businesses to both regional and international mentors. “We have [a] lack of local mentors, and the idea is to provide mentorship opportunities to local startups,” says Elena. They have already recruited 2016 fellow Ozoda Ismailova and longtime TechWomen mentor Erin Keeley to serve as mentors on the platform. Over the last few months, Erin has delivered three webinars for the initiative, including one on customer development.
This week, the fellows held a mock sales pitch event for startups from ClimateLaunchpad, a global green tech competition, as well as startups from a local science accelerator. Soon they plan to engage the TechWomen alumnae community and local leaders in order to strengthen the network of mentors on their platform.
Report Date...: 8/17/20
In Medium piece fellow shares traits of trailblazers
Fellow(s): Haneen AbuFarha
Country: Palestinian Territories
In her latest piece on Medium, “Brainy is the new Trendy,” 2015 fellow Haneen AbuFarha shares the qualities of people who facilitate growth and challenge worldviews, listing the “brainy” people in her life who have changed her career perspective.
“They will listen, then listen more, and after that, they won’t give feedback immediately. They will first ask quick, sharp, consecutive two or three questions,” writes Haneen when describing the deep thinkers and entrepreneurs she’s met during her career. “Those questions will be so simple, yet so surprisingly not counted for before.” The first leader she lists is Mitchell Baker, CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, who she met during TechWomen. “Mitchell manifested how limitless a powerful woman can be. She would look you in the eye, read you in a glance, give quick two sentences, and wrap up with closing wisdom,” Haneen writes. She also shares her top lesson she learned from Mitchell: “Stop making baseless excuses that will stop you from reaching your fullest potential.”
Report Date...: 8/17/20
Fellow designs chatbot to support victims of GBV in Cameroon
Fellow(s): Cresence Elodie
2018 fellow Cresence Elodie, founder of WETECH, announced a new partnership that will support victims of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in rural areas of Cameroon.
WETECH’s programs work to support African girls and women in the fields of entrepreneurship and technology. Their new partnership with the Center for Advocacy, Gender Equality and Action for Development (CAGEAD) used WETECH’s technology to design and launch “Alert GBV,” a chatbot similar to Sandra, WETECH’s COVID-19 chatbot that shares information on symptoms and local initiatives that support Cameroonians. Alert GBV, now available on the CAGEAD website, allows victims of Gender-Based Violence in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon to maintain anonymity but access support from organizations and health professionals. Visitors to the CAGEAD site receive a pop up chat from Alert GBV that connects them to a virtual assistant prepared to answer their questions and address their needs.
Report Date...: 8/17/20
Fellow delivers keynote on design and innovation in Africa
Fellow(s): Maureen Macharia
2018 fellow Maureen Macharia presented on the role of design in a post-COVID-19 era at last month’s UX South Africa, a virtual conference focused on designing for today, tomorrow and beyond. Maureen is a designer and founder of Spindle Design, an agency that partners with companies and entrepreneurs to bring people-centered design across multiple sectors throughout Africa.
In her keynote, Maureen spoke about how design can shape the future of innovation in Africa, focusing specifically on designing in a crisis: “Does design fit into shaping a post-crisis world? The short answer, without a shadow of a doubt in my mind: yes,” she said. Maureen stressed the need for designers to be agile, adaptive and ready to “unlearn, learn and re-learn.” She also spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has opened opportunities for designers to create new solutions, new collaborations and new avenues for partnerships: “Opportunity is all around us – we need to be the one to adapt to it,” she said.
Despite global shifts in work and workplaces, Maureen reminded the audience that design will always be a team sport, and together designers must innovate for change. “Don’t waste the crisis. Don’t waste your skills. It’s an opportunity to tap into a number of the challenges we see,” she said.
Report Date...: 8/10/20