In 2015 the United Nations declared a set of 17 interrelated goals to eliminate extreme poverty and improve international peace and stability by 2030. Ambitious as they are, meeting these Sustainable Development Goals (also known as the Global Goals) is feasible if governments, business leaders, scientists, scholars and activists make meeting them a priority and coordinate their efforts.
Women entrepreneurs around the world are among those doing their part to advance these goals. In September, five of them found themselves in New York pitching their business practices to a panel of top business, tech, venture capital, and media leaders convened by Diane von Furstenberg. The women, one from each of the five UN-designated regions, had been selected among 150 applications to compete in the WE Empower Challenge global business competition. Their businesses varied from expanding energy access to opening children’s education centers to building sustainable coastal and marine infrastructure, but they shared a commitment to creating the world we want by 2030. The winner was supposed to receive a $20,000 grant to expand her business, but Diane von Furstenberg was so moved by the Awardees’ presentations that she doubled the grant amount to $40,000.
Throughout the UN Global Goals week, the entrepreneurs met with world leaders and attended informational sessions and trainings to expand their business capabilities and advance their commitments to climate change, reducing inequality and more. The program was organized and sponsored by Vital Voices, the nonprofit behind WE Empower.
We’ve conducted interviews with the participants—first off is Habiba Ali, winner of the WE Empower Diane von Furstenberg pitch night, and the founder of Sosai Renewable Energies, a company that brings renewable energy products to people in Nigeria.
Note of transparency: Saskia Ketz, editor-in-chief of AWT, and Alana Esposito, editor of AWT, serve on the New York Council of Vital Voices, the non-profit that initiated the WE Empower project.