Cartier Announces three Arab fellows for annual Women's Initiative

Of the three regional finalists, one will be named laureate and receive a $100,000 grant

From left: Basima Abdulrahman from Iraq, Rana El Sakhawy fro the UAE and Manal Hakim from Lebanon are the Mena fellows in the 2021 Cartier Women's Initiative. Courtesy Cartier 
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Cartier has announced its annual list of fellows for the Women's Initiative, a programme that works to empower female entrepreneurs. In the 2021 list, there are three fellows from the Middle East and North Africa.

The international entrepreneurship programme was launched in 2006, and is "open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country and sector that aim to have a strong and sustainable social and/or environmental impact," says the luxury jewellery brand.

In 2021, Rana El Sakhawy, Manal Hakim and Basima Abdulrahman are all included on the list of fellows. El Sakhawy is the only fellow from the UAE, while Hakim hails from Lebanon and Abdulrahman from Iraq.

Each year, three finalists are selected per region during the first round of evaluation, then one laureate is selected per region during the second round of evaluation. Each of the seven laureates is awarded a $100,000 grant, and the remaining finalists will receive a $30,000 grant.

Here are the regional finalists recognised by the Cartier Women's Initiative: 

Rana El Sakhawy, UAE – MonkiBox

El Sakhawy is the founder of MonkiBox, an early learning platform which aims to help parents support their child’s cognitive and physical development.

"In the next five years, our goal is to impact more than 600,000 families across Mena and in neighbouring developing countries," says El Sakhawy, of MonkiBox's growth.

She was inspired to launch the company in 2018, after she became a mother, explaining: "I used to spend countless hours just researching and trying to understand what my baby's going through. How can I help her develop? And how can I give her the best start in life?"

The company falls under the initiative's quality education and responsible consumption and production categories.

Manal Hakim, Lebanon – Geek Express

Hakim also started an education-focused business, Geek Express, which is a platform that teaches students science, technology, engineering and mathematics (stem) skills, though "multidimensional learning journey of online coding courses, DIY kits, and self-paced lessons".

"I am not a techie. I started Geek Express selfishly for my kids, because I wanted them to learn about technology in a playful and accessible way. There was a barrier that shouldn't exist," said Hakim of the origins of her business.

Basima Abdulrahman, Iraq – Kesk 

Abdulrahman's business Kesk was nominated under the good health and well-being, sustainability and climate action categories. The business, which she launched in 2018, "offers green building services and products that change the way buildings and communities are planned, constructed, maintained, and operated in Iraq".

“The electricity crisis has been a big deal. People protest about it once or twice a year,” says Abdulrahman. “Iraqi citizens get no more than 12 hours of electricity from the main grid each day. Iraqis are searching for alternative sources of energy.”

2020 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

Each year, the brand awards regional winners, and in 2020 Egyptian businesswoman Nadia El Din was named the Women's Initiative Awards laureate in the Middle East and North Africa. El Din collected the regional title for her motherhood support platform, Rahet Bally.

Set up in 2014 to offer mothers financial, physical, emotional and intellectual assistance, Rahet Bally – which translates as ‘peace of mind’ – has helped an estimated 150,000 women across Egypt to date.

"Mums start crying when they come in because it's the first time anyone is taking care of them," El Din told The National in 2020 of her organisation. "They can have a shower. They can drink a cup of coffee while it's still hot. It's a place where they can actually breathe again."

The announcement means El Din will receive $100,000 (Dh367,250) in funding, plus a scholarship to the elite Insead Social Entrepreneurship Executive Education Programme. Egyptian Dr Rasha Rady and Rihab Hasanain from Saudi Arabia were regional finalists for the award.

There are seven regional categories – Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, East Asia and South Asia and Oceania – as well as a Science and Technology Pioneer Award which has launched in 2021.