Announcing the 2020 WE Empower UN SDG Challenge Awardees

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The Global Business Challenge honors women who are advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and inspiring entire communities to act to create the world we want by 2030

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge – a global business challenge led in partnership by Vital Voices Global Partnership and Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU – today announced the six social entrepreneurs selected as their 2020 Awardees.

The six 2020 WE Empower Awardees are:
• Mavis Nduchwa, Founder and CEO of Kalahari Honey (Botswana)
• Alison Price, Founder and Managing Director of SoilCyclers (Australia)
• Sarah El Battouty, Founder of ECOnsult (Egypt)
• Danielle Sharaf, Founder of Switch (Pakistan)
• Valrie Grant, Founder of GeoTechVision (Jamaica)
• Bessie Schwarz, Co-Founder of Cloud to Street (United States of America)

Each entrepreneur was selected on the basis that they lead an enterprise committed to advancing one or more of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and leverage their businesses to push for progress in their communities.

“2020 has made it unequivocally clear that the most pervasive issues our society faces are all interconnected: we cannot tackle issues like climate justice, economic inequalities, gender-based violence or racial justice in isolation. As we chart the path forward, we recognize the critical role women must play in reimagining and rebuilding our world,” said Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices. “The six WE Empower Awardees exemplify what it means to use one’s power, position and platform to empower others and drive new and innovative change. We are honored to invest in their leadership journey and inspired to help create the world they dare to imagine.”

The opportunity recognizes entrepreneurs for their ground-breaking work. As Awardees, the six women leaders will participate in capacity-building training sessions, connect with renowned business experts from around the world and gain access to Vital Voices’ global network of more than 18,000 women leaders across 182 countries and territories. The WE Empower Awardees will also participate in a dynamic pitch competition, hosted by philanthropist, activist and Vital Voices Board Member Diane von Furstenberg, to present their business for the opportunity to receive a $20,000 grant. Due to concerns around COVID-19, trainings, gatherings and convenings associated with this program will be hosted virtually.

“2020 heralds the UN Decade for Action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action to advance gender equality. Despite systemic barriers, the WE Empower Challenge 2020 awardees have created innovative, inclusive business models to advance the UN SDGs and help solve the world’s big problems,” said Amanda Ellis, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU and former UN Ambassador. “The global pandemic has taught us two things: how interconnected we all are and how important rapid action is if we are to address systemic risks to achieve the world we want by 2030. ASU Global Futures applauds the drive and determination of our awardees to build back better as an inspiration to everyone, everywhere.”

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge aims to invest in the most inspiring and transformational women entrepreneurs – providing access to seed capital, unique trainings, capacity building, a network of their peers, visibility and credibility for their work – and ignite awareness of the valuable contribution women entrepreneurs can make to the SDGs and the world’s greatest challenges.

The program is led in partnership by Vital Voices and Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU, and supported by our partners at Bank of Montréal (BMO), Diane von Furstenberg, the G5 Collective, GroYourBiz, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Mary Kay, Oxford University Said Business School, P&G, Salesforce, UN Foundation and the World Bank.

About Vital Voices Global Partnership

Vital Voices Global Partnership is an international non-profit organization that identifies and partners with creative and fearless women leaders around the world. Vital Voices searches the world for women leaders with daring vision for change, then works with them to make that vision a reality. We are venture catalysts, who provide leaders with capacity building, skills training, grants, access to a network of their peers, mentorship, visibility, recognition and guidance to accelerate change on a global scale.

For more than 20 years, Vital Voices has invested in over 18,000 women leaders from 182 countries and territories, who have then gone on to create change affecting millions around the world. Vital Voices works with women who advance economic opportunity, increase political and public engagement, end gender-based violence and promote human rights through signature fellowships, individualized investments and meaningful, lifelong partnerships. Vital Voices connects women solving problems in their communities and equips them with the tools they need to incite global, positive change and accelerate shared progress for all. Visit to learn more.

About Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University is rooted in the conviction that we can and must make a meaningful contribution to ensuring a habitable planet and a future in which well-being is attainable for all humankind. This laboratory draws on ASU’s deep commitment to use-inspired research, our ongoing work in sustainability and service to the global community in which we live.

The Global Futures Laboratory is creating a platform for an ongoing and wide-ranging exchange across all knowledge domains to address the complex social, economic and scientific challenges spawned by the current and future threats from environmental degradation. This platform positions a new world headquarters for an international network of scientists, scholars and innovators; lays the foundation to respond to existing and emerging challenges; and uses innovation to purposefully shape and inform our future. We seek to design a future in which humanity not only survives, but thrives. Visit to learn more.