Awardees of the inaugural WE Empower UN SDG Challenge — a global business competition for female entrepreneurs who are advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — recently spent several days in New York City for the U.N. Global Goals Week.
The WE Empower Challenge was initiated by Amanda Ellis, executive director of Hawaii and Asia Pacific for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Ellis attended Global Goals Week with the five awardees, who represent each of the U.N. regions, as did ASU student Ember Van Vranken from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, who helped screen the applicants and was randomly chosen to join the group in New York.
During their time in New York, the awardees were featured at a high-level session at the U.N. General Assembly with the U.N. secretary-general, the president of the World Bank, five female presidents and the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. They participated in leadership trainings including blockchain and a number of networking opportunities, and had their work highlighted by the U.N. Foundation. Among their activities was a meeting with Lauren Gula, the U.N.'s senior manager of gender equality, to sign the Women's Empowerment Principles.
The five entrepreneurs, chosen from 150 initial applicants, competed for a $20,000 grant. On Sept. 25, they pitched their innovative sustainable businesses — impacting everything from biodiversity to human trafficking — at an event hosted by fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg that brought together business leaders, celebrities and the media. Inspired by every pitch, Diane von Furstenberg made an on-the-spot decision to double the winning grant to $40,000 and award a $10,000 grant to every other participant.