Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards


Kristina Tsvetanova of Blitab Technology who won the Europe section of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, with a tactile tablet for the blind and visually impaired.

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards reward female entrepreneurship with a conscience.

What is the common denominator between a young Indian who set up an industrial-scale, vertically integrated stevia business to fight diabetes, and a Ugandan who imagined digital vouchers that could change the way government and NGOs distribute cash transfers and aid?

Or that between an Egyptian-American who came up with portable evaporative toilets that require no electricity or plumbing, and a German engineer who invented a solar-powered, off-the-grid refrigerator to reliably store vaccines?

The answer: women of conviction.

Using technology to drive change, these entrepreneurs are seeking to shape the future. “I was driven by a sense of conviction that our generation must build upon the sacrifices of our parents, by taking risks and building global ventures that will solve some of the biggest challenges facing India and the world,” says Swati Pandey, the Indian finalist who grows stevia (a natural substitute for sugar) through local farmers and communities. Finding the best solutions — often with small means and local resources — each finalist tackles a growing world concern from their home country: “Why outsource when we can build home-grown solutions to solve our problems?” says Evelyn Namara, African finalist and founder of Vouch Digital, which brings transparency to the distribution of aid.

With 18 finalists selected among 2,800 applications from over 130 countries, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards ceremony was bold in colours and accents. If the aim is to drive change by empowering women entrepreneurs across all continents, the awards make an even bigger pledge by supporting self-sustaining social entrepreneurship.

“In a decade, this initiative truly has made an impact: out of 198 finalists creating over 6,000 jobs, 80 percent are still in activity, which is an amazing rate for start-ups. This is why we decided to scale it up and to give it even more scope and a higher prize, as well as more recognition,” says Cyrille Vigneron, CEO of Cartier International.

This year, the 18 finalists will all receive personalised business coaching, media visibility and networking opportunities. The six laureates were awarded US$100,000 and one-to-one personalised business mentoring, while the 12 remaining finalists were given US$30,000.

Cartier has teamed up with three other co‐sponsoring organisations: the Women’s Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD Business School. Cartier plays a leading role in the organisation of the competition and provides coaching and funding for the projects. The Women’s Forum provides important visibility and networking opportunities for the finalists. McKinsey & Company and INSEAD coach and mentor the finalists.

“The world we live in is a by-product of who we are. A thriving business should be meaningful and pass along strong values,” says Vigneron.

The 2018 winners are:

Asia-Pacific: Swati Pandey, India
Arboreal Agro Innovations: an industrial-scale, vertically integrated producer of stevia, a 100 percent natural substitute for sugar.

Europe: Kristina Tsvetanova, Austria
Blitab Technology: a tactile tablet for the blind and visually impaired.

Latin America: Paula Gomez, Brazil
Epistemic: a device that alerts patients and caregivers of an oncoming epileptic seizure up to 25 minutes in advance.

Middle East and North Africa: Siroun Shamigian, Lebanon
Kamkalima: an online platform that uses artificial intelligence and data analytics to help learn and teach Arabic.

North America: Yiding Yu, United States
Twiage: a digital platform that enables the transmission of real-time data from ambulance to hospital.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Melissa Bime, Cameroon
Infiuss: an online blood bank that collects and dispatches blood donations to hospitals.

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