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


Washington, DC, July 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 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 five social entrepreneurs selected as their 2021 Awardees.  

The five 2021 WE Empower Awardees are: 

  • Olufunto Boroffice, Founder & CEO, Chanja Datti Ltd (Nigeria) 
  • Nidhi Pant, Co-Founder & Head of Finance and Partnerships, S4S Technologies (India) 
  • Sara Saeed, Co-Founder & CEO, Sehat Kahani (Pakistan) 
  • Panmela Castro, Founder & CEO, Panmela Castro Arte e Cultura and Rede Nami (Brazil) 
  • Aline Sara, Co-founder & CEO, NaTakallam (United States) 

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.  

“Over the past year, we have seen women leaders emerge out of the most extraordinary circumstances. In the midst of a global pandemic, women have spearheaded front-line efforts to reverse the effects of climate change, combat gender-based violence, diversify legislative assemblies, and lead the way in the fight against the pervasive impacts of Covid-19. We must recognize the women who, in the face of adversity, never stray from their mission to empower and improve the lives of others,” said Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices. “It is my honor to congratulate this year’s five WE Empower Awardees. These incredible women have demonstrated tenacity, innovation and compassion that are cornerstones of the Vital Voices leadership model. I am confident that our investment in their for-purpose businesses will not only improve their communities, but the world as a whole.” 

The opportunity recognizes entrepreneurs for their ground-breaking work. As Awardees, the five 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.  

As the world prepares for the 26th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in November 2021, UN Global Compact Vice-Chair Paul Polman’s warning reverberates: “There is no business to be done on a dead planet”. 

“The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge awardees are leading exemplars of sustainability, connectivity and inclusion in business, solving the world’s big problems through planet and people friendly business models,” said Amanda Ellis, ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Lab and former UN Ambassador. “As the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately negatively impacted women, and women entrepreneurs still face over 1600 discriminatory laws globally preventing them from doing business on the same basis as their male counterparts, ASU Global Futures is so proud to herald the tenacity, innovation and achievements of WE Empower awardees. This outstanding group of WE Empower trailblazers embody Melinda Gates’ reminder: ‘Women are not just victims of a broken world, they can be architects of a better one.’” 

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge aims to invest in the most inspiring and transformational women entrepreneurs – providing 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 America, Bank of Montreal (BMO), Diane von Furstenberg, GroYourBiz, Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden, Mary Kay, Oxford University Said Business School, P&G, Salesforce, UN Foundation and the World Bank.  


Vital Voices Global Partnership invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges – from gender-based violence to the climate crisis, economic inequities, and more. We are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality.  We scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity and visibility. Over the last 24 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change makers across 182 countries, each of whom are daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all. Visit to learn more. 


The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University represents the urgent belief that we can and must make a meaningful contribution to ensuring a habitable planet and a future in which well-being is attainable. The Global Futures Laboratory is the world’s first laboratory dedicated to the health of the planet and its inhabitants. It is built upon the deep expertise of ASU and leveraging an extensive network of partners 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 array of scientists, scholars and innovators and lays the foundation to anticipate and respond to existing and emerging challenges and use innovation to purposefully shape and inform our future. For more information visit 

For more information on how you can support WE Empower UN SDG Challenge, please contact Madeleine Boyd at 

For media inquiries or interviews with the Awardees, please contact Sofiyat Ibrahim at 


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