International Women’s Day: Meet eight start-up founders from our portfolios

As Friday, 8 March marks International Women’s Day – the GSMA Mobile for Development Utilities and Ecosystem Accelerator teams are collaborating to celebrate the achievements of some of the female leaders within our respective Innovation Fund current and past portfolios, by asking them to answer one question each. Through the power of mobile technology, these women enable socio-economic inclusion of women and men across Asia Pacific and Africa. They are sources of inspiration to many young women aspiring to be leaders in both the technology sector and verticals that they are champions in such as energy, health, agriculture or logistics.

Dr.Sara Saeed Khurram, CEO and Co-Founder, Sehat Kahani

Sehat Kahani provides mHealth services by women doctors to marginalised populations – mostly female – through telehealth in Pakistan.


Why is it important to have more women as leaders in the tech sector?

“The majority of women in our part of the world never work because they are scared of that ‘first step’, that first time that they leave their house, their children, cultural barriers and taboos, to do something for their ‘own being’. We need more women leaders to motivate more women take the ‘first step’ to change their fate and the fate of our future.”


Samira Negm, CEO and Co-Founder, Raye7

Raye7 is a culturally sensitive digital carpooling service for daily commuting in Egypt.



What can we do to move the needle for greater gender inclusion?

“Having more women role models and highlighting their stories inspires both men and women by destroying the stereotypes about women.”


Tope Omotolani, Co-founder & COO, Farmcrowdy

Farmcrowdy is an online platform for individuals and businesses to invest in farming projects in Nigeria.



What is your message for the young women aspiring to be tech leaders in future?

“Never use your gender as an excuse not to create value or give meaning to humanity. It is better to live your life daily in valuable service to humanity than to pay the future with regret.”


Shazia Khan, CEO and Co-Founder, EcoEnergy

EcoEnergy delivers Pay-As-You-Go solar home systems to remote and off-grid customers in Pakistan



What can we do to move the needle for greater gender inclusion?

“Globally, women are regularly forced to drop out of the workforce or avoid entering it at all due to family obligations. Accepting women in the workplace but not accommodating motherhood is not only unfair but also short sighted. Women constitute half the world’s population, talent pool, and great ideas – we can lose them or simply put things in place like remote work options, quality childcare and/or flexible hours.”


Dr. Vena Arielle Ahouansou, CEO and Co-Founder, Kea Medicals

Kea Medicals is a medical digital identity solution for patients and hospitals in Benin.


Why is it important to have more women as leaders in the tech sector?
“Inspiring and encouraging women as leaders in the tech sector empowers female entrepreneurs to come up with unique solutions to new problems. Additionally, as more and more industries step into the digital age, tech will imbue every part of our economy. Technology is a growing field and we desperately need more top talent. Women cannot be left behind.”


Virginia Gardiner, CEO and Founder, Loowatt

Loowatt designs and deploys waterless toilets that use mobile technology for logistics management in emerging markets.



What is your vision of empowering more women through your projects?

“In many parts of the world, the lack of sanitation creates extra challenges for women: danger of assault, reproductive health problems, and girls missing out on school. We work with talented women and men in developing technology solutions, and by offering high-quality, clean toilets, we hope to improve everyday life for everyone, including, of course, women.”

Yin Yin Phyu, Director of Operations and Co-Founder, Greenovator

Greenovator is a digital marketplace for agricultural inputs and outputs in Myanmar.


What is your vision of empowering more women through your projects?

“For me, empowering means self-confidence and self-respect. Through our project, we encourage women to participate equally and give them equal opportunities to speak. I also advise women: don’t let other people create you – be yourself.”


Lyndsay Handler, CEO, Fenix International

Fenix International designs, manufactures and distributes mobile payment-enabled solar home systems in Uganda, providing convenient and affordable electricity access to off-grid customers.


What is your message for the young women aspiring to be tech leaders in future?

“If you are passionate about technology or the impact technology can have on society, do not let anything – especially your gender – stand in your way of becoming a technology leader. Lean in, take a seat at the table, work hard and speak up. Gain as much hands-on experience as possible as early as possible from other inspiring and successful tech leaders you admire. Most importantly, develop your own personal mission and values as a tech leader and relentlessly pursue them. If you do this, there is no doubt you will have an impact as a formal or informal tech leader and that you will grow on this journey.”


The GSMA Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities programme is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), USAID as part of its commitment to Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge for Development and supported by the GSMA and its members.

The Ecosystem Accelerator programme is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Government, the GSMA and its members.

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