It was perfect timing. During International Women’s Day, Cartier hosted a digital livestream for the Cartier Women’s Initiative (CWI). This was also to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the luxury brand’s relevant and worthwhile advocacy supporting women and the culmination of a “world reunion” wherein global thinkers and doers paid tribute to the extraordinary achievements of women leveraging business as a force for good.
Cartier CEO for Southeast Asia Oceana Cecile Naour welcomed participants, mentioning that though “talent is universal, opportunity is not.” This is where the CWI steps in. “We are committed to supporting incredible ideas and dreams, where women in the region can find support, connect with one another, and achieve visibility. We welcome women change-makers from around Southeast Asia to lend your unique voices to inspire and encourage others as we build our Cartier Women’s Initiative community in this region.” Indeed, this is a noble mission.
Currently, the CWI has put up a Women’s Pavilion in Dubai exhibiting its achievements over the past 15 years. Furthermore, they held a three-day Women’s Initiative Speakers Series. This included case studies, workshops and “meet and learn” sessions for its community, allowing them to meet other impact leaders from around the world, spark new collaborations, and tackle shared challenges.
I could literally cry at how this journey changed me. It is truly life-changing. It spoke to me and told me ‘you can succeed.’
Providing capital to women
Let’s look back at the history of the Cartier Women’s initiative. “Since 2006, the Cartier Women’s Initiative has helped women impact entrepreneurs to reach their full potential by shining a light on their achievements and providing them with the necessary financial, social and human capital support to grow their businesses and build their leadership skills. The program is open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country and sector that aims to have a strong and sustainable positive impact on society as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” These goals were created to end poverty, protect the planet, and that “all people enjoy peace and prosperity” by 2030.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Impact Report states that it “supported 262 women impact entrepreneurs hailing from 62 countries and has awarded a total of $6,440,000 in prize money to support their businesses. The fellowship has expanded from funding five fellows in 2007 to 24 fellows in 2021.”
This is an impressive feat and most importantly, a meaningful one. This impact report presented the positive effects and changes from the endeavors of the women entrepreneurs.
A Filipina who’s made an impact
For the first time, the CWI has announced nine impact awardees. The awardees are “former fellows who have been selected for the extraordinary impact their businesses have created over the years.” Furthermore, there are first, second and third place winners of three Impact Awards categories, which are: Improving Lives, Preserving the Planet, and Creating Opportunities.
Filipina Carmina Bayombong, CWI Laureate 2019 and ImpactAwardee 2021, co-established InvestED, which provides education financing for poor and low-income students. She garnered second place under the Creating Opportunities category of the awards.
“Our vision is a world where every young dreamer has no barriers to success,” Carmina says. “We provide success essentials — what we call the three Cs: capital, coaching, and community — for under-resourced youth through a high-tech/high-touch program.”
In the livestream Q & A, Carmina told the story of the beginnings of InvestED, which was “sparked by chance and choice.” Her parents, both engineers, broke out of poverty due to education. An engineer herself, Carmina believes that “access to success is unequal. Inequalities are reduced though through the power of education.”
While in school, she saw how her classmates struggled financially. She claims that two million youth drop out of school annually in the Philippines. Because of this, at the young age of 23, she started on working on a project to provide access to education. She pitched an innovative but holistic idea of educational loans that included coaching and counseling to six banks. Of course, there were doubters. Her unique model does not require physical collateral, but instead looks at the potential of the individual. The group targets those with promise from low-income families. “Higher education affects the income progression of the entire family, and eventually the community.”
So far, they have assisted and served 2,000 students. InvestED has an ambitious but admirable goal. This is to “end college dropouts in the Philippines in five years.” Speaking about her journey with the Cartier Women’s Initiative platform, Carmina says that “I could literally cry at how this journey changed me. It is truly life-changing. It spoke to me and told me ‘you can succeed.’ It made me realize that I had the potential to be a global business. It made me come out of my shell and lifted me up. Meeting the other women impact leaders also provided support, especially during the pandemic.” Her experience was nothing short of transformative. In her words, “I want to see a world where every young person has the opportunity to fulfil their dreams and then help others do the same.”
The impact awardees
Here are the Impact Award winners per category:
Improving Lives: Temie Giwa Tubosun, Nigeria, LifeBank – A medical distribution company that uses data and technology to discover and deliver essential medical products to hospitals in Nigeria.
Preserving the Planet: Charlotte Wang, China, EQuota Energy – An energy optimization company that combines artificial intelligence and big data to deliver energy efficiency solutions.
Creating Opportunities: Fariel Salahuddin, Pakistan, UpTrade – This bartering service enables off-grid rural communities to exchange livestock for solar-powered water pumps and home systems.
Improving Lives: Nneka Mobisson, Nigeria, mDoc – A mobile platform that provides people living with chronic disease with 24/7 access to virtual healthcare providers
Preserving the Planet: Joanne Howarth, Australia, Planet Protector Packaging – Planet Protector Packaging manufactures environmentally responsible insulated packaging made from sheep waste wool for transport of temperature-sensitive goods.
Creating Opportunities: Carmina Bayombong, Philippines, InvestEd – A success platform that provides low-income, high-potential students the 3Cs they need to succeed: capital, coaching and community.
Improving Lives: Rasha Rady, Egypt, Chefaa – Chefaa has created an AI-powered, GPS-enabled digital platform to help chronic patients order, schedule, and refill their recurring medicines regardless of location or income.
Preserving the Planet: Lorna Rutto, Kenya, EcoPost – EcoPost manufactures durable fencing posts using plastic waste, an environmentally friendly alternative to timber.
Creating Opportunities: Carol Chyau, China, Shokay – Shokay produces children’s clothes and accessories, home furnishings and yarn using yak fiber purchased directly from the region’s herder.
The first-place awardees will take home US$100,000 in grant money, while the second and third place awardees will receive US$60,000 and $30,000. However, all the nine awardees will each receive human capital support valued at US $10,000.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is worth celebrating for its efforts and its immeasurable influence since it began. It continues to evolve and be relevant to women and society. What better time to share its positive outcome and the changes it has created than on International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.