Invest in women


Recognising the crucial role of women entrepreneurs in advancing the SDGs

Launched in 2018 by UN Secretary General, António Guterres, the Council of Women World Leaders and the World Bank President, the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge is a first-of-its-kind global competition for women entrepreneurs who are advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The program strives to:

Honour innovative women entrepreneurs who are achieving the SDGs through sustainable business practices and inspiring others to follow suit.

Invest in the most inspiring and transformational women entrepreneurs, providing access to training, capacity building, networks and opportunities to achieve further visibility and credibility for their work.

Ignite awareness and catalyse change among policy makers and financiers, of the contributions women entrepreneurs make in contributing to the SDGs and the legislative obstacles they still face, from legal discrimination to access to capital.

"The WE Empower Challenge was designed to showcase the incredible contribution that women entrepreneurs are making."
Amanda Ellis, Director Global Partnerships, Arizona State University Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory

the power of partnership

RELX and THE WE Empower SDG Challenge

It all began with a conversation between Former UN Ambassador Amanda Ellis and Executive Director of the IMF and UN Climate Change High Level Champion Mahmoud Mohieldin at the EXCELerate conference – a dynamic gathering of inspiring innovators and global policy influencers converging to forge impactful business relationships. Alongside Founder of the EXCELerate conference, Barb Mowat, the trio recognised that the role of women entrepreneurs was critical in achieving the SDGs and that it was essential to build networks to support, elevate and empower women to create the solutions that the world so desperately needs. With the support of and Alyse Nelson, Co-Founder and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership - a non-profit organisation that supports women leaders – WE Empower became a first of its kind global initiative, focused on empowering and elevating women entrepreneurs.

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge was launched in 2018 and now, in its seventh year, it continues to build a global network of extraordinary women entrepreneurs who are developing solutions to sustainability challenges around the world. Find out more about the challenge and the awardees here.

In 2023 RELX became a Lead partner for the WE Empower Challenge. Joining organisations, institutions and individuals such as Arizona State University, Bank of Montreal, P&G, Vital Voices, SalesForce, Diane von Furstenberg, World Bank and UN Foundation, RELX pledged to use its global network and key resources such as the RELX SDG Resource Centre to further support and amplify the stories of the WE Empower Challenge network.

"RELX has been a signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a United Nations Global Compact and UN initiative since 2014 and we're committed to leveraging our global networks, reach and resources to support the achievement of gender equality. We're honoured to support the WE Empower SDG Challenge and to help amplify the stories of these incredible entrepreneurs."
Mirieme HIll, Corporate Responsibility Project Manager, RELX

Pitch Night hosted by Diane von Furstenberg

On the evening of Wednesday 20th September 2023, alongside the political and diplomatic proceedings of the 78th UN General Assembly Week, five awardees from different world regions arrived for the highly anticipated WE Empower SDG Challenge Pitch Night.

Hosted by fashion designer, author and philanthropist, Diane Von Furstenberg, at her studio in New York City's Meatpacking District, Pitch Night is a unique opportunity for WE Empower awardees to share their innovative stories and solutions on a global stage. The evening was hosted by Leah Lizarondo, co-founder and CEO of Food Rescue Hero, a 2019 WE Empower awardee and winner of the 2019 pitch night competition.

Awardees received training and coaching in order to deliver their pitches and to highlight how their experiences have influenced them in becoming high impact entrepreneurs who are advancing the SDGs. Following their pitches, an esteemed panel of judges that included Diane von Furstenberg and Bozoma Saint John, former Global Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix and Marketing Hall of Fame inductee, had the opportunity to put questions to each Awardee about their businesses.

The overall winner of pitch night was determined by a live, ranked-choice vote both by the in-person audience and online attendees.

On the night, RELX announced it would make a $2500 prize donation to each of the runner up awardees. To mark International Women's Day 2023, RELX was honoured to have Andrea Blair and Susan Blanchet, two of the 2023 awardees as guests on the RELX World We Want podcast series, hosted by Dr Márcia Balisciano, Chief Sustainability Officer at RELX. Watch the International Women's Day panel here .

The winner of Pitch Night was Menna Farouk, Founder of Dosy, who received a grant of $20,000 for her business focused on creating freedom of transportation for women in Egypt and beyond. Dosy is an online platform through which women book scooter and bicycle classes with a female instructor in their neighborhood. Dosy trains and teaches women and girls to ride bikes and scooters, allowing them the mobility to go to work and school. Read more about Menna and the 2023 awardees below and watch Pitch Night in full.

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introducing the 2023 we empower awardees

World Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Diana Mbogo

Founder and Managing Director of Millennium Engineers, Tanzania

On the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake, a renewables revolution is taking place. Led by Diana Mbogo, author, dancer, mother and founder/managing director of Millennium Engineers - a 100% women led social enterprise that specialises in working alongside communities to develop customised business projects that harness the power of renewable energy.

Sharing her story at Pitch Night, Diana described how being born prematurely had meant that whilst growing up she was considered to be weaker and that her abilities were often underestimated, but that it was her mother who instilled a sense of self belief that would propel her forward on a journey of creating change in communities often overlooked.

"Through my mother's eyes I saw myself as a princess and a warrior. Throughout my life skepticism followed me. Nobody expected much from me, so I decided I could do anything. I learned to look where others weren't looking."
Diana Mbogo, Founder and Managing Director, Millennium Engineers,

The Sardine Fishing Industry project, one of the initiatives developed by Diana's social enterprise, aims to transition the low income sardine fishing industry in Lake Victoria, away from traditional conventional methods of sardine drying and fishing lights towards cleaner, more affordable renewable energy solutions.

World Region: Latin America & the Caribbean

Karin Sempf

Founder and CEO, Innova Nation, Panama

Though previously a lawyer, Karin Sempf has found purpose through her work as a businesswoman, changemaker, and educator. Karin is the CEO and Founder of Innova Nation, an educational lab focused on motivating and empowering the upcoming generation of entrepreneurs, innovators, and sustainability advocates.

Through its curriculum and programs, Innova Nation provides interactive learning opportunities for children and teenagers aged 8-18, helping them foster creativity, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving abilities while simultaneously encouraging them to explore their interests and ideas. By instilling a culture of innovation, sustainability and entrepreneurship in young minds, their programs provide their students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and confidence to turn their ideas into realities. Innova Nation’s programs have impacted the lives of more than 10,500 students. With the help of more than 100 alliances with strategic partners, they have reached over 90 schools and have promoted the development of over 500 innovative ideas within the program.

"The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge has been one of the best experiences of my life. The particular structure of the program with the competition, training, the preparation for the Pitch, access to funds and connections to a worldwide network, is a remarkable combination that provides complete support in the stage I am at with my company. I truly believe that the WE Empower Challenge has unlocked another level in my career."
Karen Sempf, Founder and CEO, Innova Nation

World Region: Asia-Pacific

Andrea ‘Andy’ Blair

Co-Founder and Director of Business and Innovation, Upflow, New Zealand

Andy Blair is Co-Founder of Upflow, a geothermal, research and innovation company based in New Zealand. Upflow is dedicated to harnessing the vast potential of geothermal energy to provide intelligent solutions to global industries. With a mission to challenge conventional thinking and inspire the adoption of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), Upflow assembles expert teams to work on cutting-edge technologies and interdisciplinary approaches to build real-world solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Upflow uses the world's natural gift of geothermal energy to create ground breaking solutions such as the conversion of carbon dioxide and methane into single cell protein through the use of microscopic organisms called extremophiles. Protein that can then be used as a food source - at present for animals - but with the ambition that it could one day be for humans too.

"I’ve always been the translator - in between science, business and community. I’m curious about people and I'm curious about the world.....the tough problems demand the most clever solutions and the most daring people to create them."
Andy Blair, Co-Founder and Director of Business and Innovation, Upflow,

World Region: Europe, North America & Other

Susan Blanchet

Founder and CEO, Origen Air, Canada

Founded in 2019, Origen Air was born from a deeply personal commitment to improving indoor air quality and well-being. CEO, Susan Blanchet, driven by her father’s health struggles, embarked on a mission to address the negative effects of poor air quality. Through exclusive global distribution rights to genetically enhanced golden pothos plants, developed at the University of Washington, Origen Air offers a revolutionary solution for removing synthetic toxins from indoor air, ensuring not just cleaner air but a healthier, more productive environment for all.

Origen Air focuses on producing efficient and sustainable living air purifiers using genetically modified plants that are 92x more effective at removing toxins from the air, making a significant impact on indoor air quality restoration and protection.

"WE Empower fueled my drive to create a future where the SDGs, triple bottom line, and the circular economy is imbedded in everything we do."
Susan Blanchet Founder and CEO, Origen Air,

World Region: Greater Middle East and North Africa

Menna Farouk

Co-Founder, Dosy, Egypt

“For me, learning to ride was liberating. It has helped heal a wound shared by every woman in a conservative society — a repression we grow up with, being told we are only safe when accompanied by a man,”

For Menna Farouk, co-founder of Dosy, the tech-based scooter and bicycle riding platform for Egyptian women, and the overall winner of 2023 WE Empower Pitch Night, her business represents more than just a mobility solution. Dosy trains and teaches women and girls to ride bikes and scooters, breaking down social stereotypes and empowering women to work and study.

When Menna and her co-founder sister, Nouran, struggled to find an instructor to teach them to ride scooters they decided to take matters into their own hands, creating an online platform to match riders with the nearest instructors and at a suitable schedule. The impact of the platform extends beyond simply teaching somebody to ride - Dosy creates jobs for women in the process, reduces traffic congestion and pollution and helps to break down the social stereotypes about women scooter and bicycle riders.

“Being part of the WE Empower week in New York was an incredible achievement for me. It was a great opportunity to share ideas and exchange expertise with fellows from other countries as well as gain perspective and insights from investors and industry leaders in the US on my business.”
Menna Farouk, Co-Founder, Dosy

podcasts: celebrating International women's day

In these special episodes of RELX's "The World We Want" podcast series, in celebration of International Women's Day 2024, Dr Márcia Balisciano, Chief Sustainability Officer at RELX, is joined by three of the 2023 WE Empower SDG Challenge Awardees; Andrea "Andy" Blair, Co-Founder and President of New Zealand based geothermal research and innovation company, Upflow; Susan Blanchet, Founder and CEO of Origen Air and Diana Mbogo, Founder and Managing Director of Millennium Engineers Enterprises in Tanzania.

In these inspiring conversations, we explore the power of mentorship, the personal importance of the SDGs and the critical need to invest more in women.

WE Empower SDG Challenge 2024: Applications Now open

Calling all women entrepreneurs. The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge 2024 is open for applications. Now in its 7th year, WE Empower is a first of its kind global competition, focused on empowering and elevating women entrepreneurs.

Five outstanding Awardees will be selected to participate in events surrounding the 2024 UN Global Goals Week and 79th UN General Assembly.

Applications close on 12 April 2024 (11.59 pm US Eastern Time). Don't miss out. Learn more and apply today!