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6 Women entrepreneurs who are making a difference in the world

CARTIER WOMENS INITIATIVE
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A look at several impressive women awarded grants in the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards.

“Empowering women and girls will greatly help the world community not to leave anyone behind, and their empowerment will empower us all,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said in 2016 during the deliberations of the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women of the UN.

The Archbishop went on to say that empowering women means creating the conditions necessary for them to flourish, and this message shouldn’t be merely a quote, but a way of living. Entrepreneurship is one of the best ways to create conditions for empowerment, since it’s the path to forming a unique business that follows women’s needs, passions, and abilities. Women entrepreneurs find in their businesses the advantage of flexibility, success, and leadership.

One of the companies that has been supporting women in business for over 10 years is Cartier, which in 2016 founded the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, guided by the idea to drive change by empowering women entrepreneurs. These awards are open to women-run, for-profit businesses in any country and sector, working to create a strong social impact. Women apply to these awards every year with their business plans, and after a thorough review, a jury selects six laureates from six different regions in the world. The laureates receive a grant and one-to-one business mentoring to encourage them to grow their business.

Since the program’s creation, nearly 16,000 women from around the world have applied, 198 businesses from 49 countries have been supported, and there have been 70 laureates. These projects have reached even more people, since they have created over 6,000 jobs, and 80 percent of the businesses are still running. The six laureates of the 2018 edition of the Awards were revealed in Singapore, and the submission period for the 2019 Awards has just closed.

The power of health

One of the laureates selected for the 2018 edition was YiDing Yu, from the United States, who created a digital platform called Twiage, that enables the transmission of real-time data from ambulance to hospital.

YiDing said that besides the benefits of the award, the experience of participating in the Cartier Women’s Initiatives Awards left her a feeling of extreme hope and gratitude. “Hope because I met so many incredible women who were driven to do work that improves the lives of other people. They are present in every continent of the globe and they persevere against adversity and, often, against societal expectations of women, to make a real difference. And I feel grateful for the amazing opportunities that I have been blessed with and the many kind men and women who believe in underdogs and who believe in women. It’s amazing what you can do to help someone else with just a little encouragement and support.”

YiDing Yu conceived of the project as a medical student, when she realized that the methods hospital emergency departments used to collate patient information on arrival were outdated — mostly done over the radio with the ambulance. Those precious minutes relaying info could be dedicated to urgent treatment that would prevent permanent disabilities and even deaths. So YiDing developed a cloud-based digital platform which enhanced communication by using secure data streams and live GPS-tracking. Twiage enables hospital registration of a patient in real time from the ambulance or scene of an accident via a free smart phone app, which offers hospitals a complete picture of incoming patients with basic medical information, so hospitals can be prepared.

Twiage, which took YiDing three years to build, has helped over 100,000 people receive faster lifesaving care.

It took YiDing three years to build her company, and one of her biggest challenges was convincing people that it was worth changing the status quo. But all she needed were a few believers that Twiage could work to make it happen.

Women entrepreneurs making a difference

Besides YiDing Yu, this year there were five other laureates who are determined to change the world they’re living in, and make it better through their work:

Swati Pandey, from India. She’s interested in fighting diabetes and obesity, considered the new age epidemics. For instance, India has the highest number of diabetics in the world. The problem she presented was that people suffering from diabetes have increased from 180 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, according to World Health Organization. Her solution was to create a plant biotechnology company that produced stevia, a 100 percent natural substitute for sugar. The company, Arboreal, intends to be sustainable through all levels, from the farmers who cultivate it, to the consumers who may transition to a healthier option.

Kristina Tsvetanova, from Austria. After observing the challenges blind or visually impaired people face using technology, Kristina realized it was important to open the tech world to them. With that in mind, she created Blitab Technology, the world’s first tactile tablet. Today, there are more than 285 million blind or visually impaired people worldwide, but only 1 percent of all published books are available in Braille, and the only electronic device currently available to blind people is a keyboard. Therefore, Kristina developed a technology called tixtels, which are little smart dots that can be felt through a screen that’s layered with several types of materials.

Paula Gomez, from Brazil. Along with her 75-year-old mother, Gomez studied the signals of incoming epileptic seizures, and then created a device that can predict them and alert the patient or the caregiver up to 25 minutes in advance. There are 65 million people affected by epilepsy worldwide, and having something that could alert them in advance can certainly change their lives. Epistemic works with two electrodes placed in the head, and then connected to a box that sends the signal to an app.

Siroun Shamigian, from Lebanon. After 23 years of teaching, Siroun discovered that Arabic teachers had access to very few technological support tools, which challenges the teaching of the language in a world that’s drawn into technology. Therefore, she decided to innovate the teaching and learning of Arabic through an online platform, called Kamkalima. In its first year, Kamkalima has benefited 12,000 students in 35 schools across two countries.

Melissa Bime, from Cameroon. At just 21 years of age, Melissa is already changing the world. Her project, Infiuss, is an online blood bank that collects and dispatches blood donations to hospitals, while keeping an inventory of the types of blood available. She came up with this idea while working as a nurse in Cameroon, where she witnessed numerous deaths that could’ve been prevented if timely transfusions were available. The inaccessibility of blood supplies would be prevented if hospitals had access to other blood reserves. With Infiuss, hospitals in the area can contact the platform in case of an emergency; the company will check where the required blood is in the database and coordinate the delivery. So far, Infiuss has transported over 230 liters of blood via six hospitals.

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