Four female social impact entrepreneurs from the Middle East and North Africa had their work recognised in The Bicester Collection’s inaugural edition of the Unlock Her Future Prize.
Eight finalists representing Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and the UAE attended a pitch day in London to compete to become the winners of the start-up competition, which aims to identify and support women leveraging innovation as a force for good.
The winners’ ceremony was held on International Women’s Day, hosted by author and women’s activist Lina AbiRafeh.
Each will receive a business grant of up to $100,000, bespoke mentorship from international experts and an education programme from presenting partner New York University Abu Dhabi.
So who were the winners?
1. Noor Jaber, from Lebanon, with Nawat. Noor hopes to enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) through a safe and accessible digital space providing SRSH knowledge in Arabic via educational content and consultations with qualified experts, offering confidentiality, privacy and convenience.
“I’m so thrilled to have been selected as a winner of the Unlock Her Future Prize, this initiative brings validation to my passion and to my mission to bring the importance of women’s reproductive health out into the open and to empower women to care for their well-being and take informed decisions about their bodies,” she said.
2. Sara Llalla, from Iraq, with EcoCentric. EcoCentric is an online marketplace and circular economy system designed to mitigate microplastic food contamination and eliminate plastic waste.
“Winning this prestigious prize validates the need of EcoCentric’s services in our society,” she said. “We’re introducing the only truly sustainable food packaging system, which should be normalised as part of our everyday and now is the perfect time to launch this in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the host of COP 28.”
Inspired by the power of product invention, the judges decided to allocate the third prize between two finalists who are at different stages of the development of their invention.
3. Fella Bouti, from Algeria, with Ecodalle. Fella provides ecological construction and homogeneous, economical and integrated irrigation solutions to improve large cities’ air quality and urban temperature.
“Unlock Her Future stands for the power of women, this is an incredible opportunity, it will be life changing for me!” said Fella.
4. Nuhayr Zein, from UAE, with Leukeather. This is a sustainable and ethical vegetal material alternative to exotic leathers made from dried plant pods, and a by-product of existing agriculture which minimises its carbon footprint and provides an additional source of income for farming communities.
“The Unlock Her Future Prize will allow Leukeather to develop, so that we may all take a step forward towards a more eco-friendly and responsible world by collaborating with nature and completely eliminating the unethical and wasteful killing of exotic species,” she said.
Commenting on the winners, Chantal Khoueiry, Chief Culture Officer, The Bicester Collection, said: “Empowering women social entrepreneurs is not just about recognising their achievements – it’s about creating a ripple effect of positive change that impacts entire communities.
“These women are leading the way towards a brighter future for us all.”
Open to women of any age with an inspiring not-for-profit business idea, or a business where their for-profit goals generate a positive return to society; the Unlock Her Future Prize identifies ventures that will drive sustainable positive social, cultural and environmental impact for generations to come, as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The inaugural edition of the prize celebrated the women of the Middle East and North Africa. In 2024, it will travel around the world to celebrate women from another geographical region.
Find out more at UnlockHerFuturePrize.com.