Women-led CompaniesWhen women work, they help engage and encourage more women to get into the workforce and thus drive the cycle of helping to lift women and their communities out of poverty. A 2016 McKinsey report estimated that advancing global gender parity in economic activity by 2025 could add up to $28 trillion to the global GDP per year.

In addition to reducing poverty, a United Nations study found that businesses with a higher proportion of women executives and directors saw an increase in profits and returns on invested capital. Not only do women in business help reduce global poverty and increase the global market, but many of their companies provide services directed at those in poverty. Here are six women-led companies that give back to the poor.

6 Women-Led Companies that Help Poor Communities

  1. 10Power: CEO Sandra Kwak founded 10Power in 2016 hoping to bring power to communities without access to the electric grid. Kwak and her company work with local partners in Haiti to make renewable energy affordable and accessible for places that need it most. Only a third of the island has access to the electric grid, but 10Power hopes to change that. By teaching local installers and engineers about solar power and panel installation, 10Power give more people access to clean, renewable power.
  2. CloQ: In 2016, co-founder Rafaela Cavalcanti helped launch the app CloQ, with the mission to provide access to cheaper and easy-to-use formal nano-credit to the lower-income and unbanked population in Brazil and to include them in the formal credit system. Since CloQ caters to a poorer population who may not necessarily have financial data, their credit model is based on client evaluation, behavioral and reliability, rather than solely on financial records. The app focuses on providing micro-loans, usually around $25. As the connection and relationship between the user and CloQ grows, loans up to $150 can be awarded. As 33 percent of the Brazilian population does not use or have a bank account, this app is a great solution for taking out small loans and preventing people from falling victim to loan sharks.
  3. Laboratoria: Co-founder and CEO Mariana Costa Checa began Laboratoria in 2014 in Peru. Laboratoria’s main initiative is to provide low-income and poor women with access to education with free web-development and coding instruction. The 6 month-long boot camp focuses on front-end development and UX design. Students also learn a variety of coding languages including JavaScript, HTML and CSS. The company also helps place their graduates into jobs by hosting hackathons to connect companies with students. More than 1,000 women have successfully completed Laboratoria’s program and more than 80 percent of those women went on to work in the technology industry. With over 450,000 unfilled tech jobs expected to arise in Latin America, Checa hopes her company will give low-income women the skills and opportunities to fill those jobs.
  4. Unima: Co-founder Laura Mendoza helped start Unima in Mexico in order to provide cheap, efficient diagnostic testing to poor and remote communities. The organization developed a fast and low-cost diagnostic and disease surveillance technology, particularly targeting tuberculosis (a highly contagious disease prevalent in poor communities). Patients put a drop of blood on a specially-designed paper. The result of the chemical reaction on the paper is evaluated by a smartphone app. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and each paper costs around $1. Due to its simple design, Unima’s technology does not require a lab to evaluate blood samples, so the diagnostic testing is easily transportable to remote communities. The Unima also stores all results from the smartphone app in a cloud server for real-time data surveillance. While large-scale testing of the technology began in Mexico, Unima hopes to expand its reach to remote and low-income communities in Africa as well.
  5. Vunilagi Book Club: Started in 2017, founder Adi Mariana Waqa’s book club provides books and a passion for reading to kids in Fiji. She and her volunteers encourage kids to read and ask questions. By inspiring a love of learning in youths, the book club’s mission is to help kids avoid the generational cycles of poverty by tackling illiteracy and encouraging them to pursue education and employment. Vunilagi has donated over a thousand books to six different rural villages and is run by around 30 volunteers.
  6. Wazi Vision: Founded in 2016 by Brenda Katwesigye, Wazi Vision provides affordable eye care. In Uganda, home of Wazi Vision, 1.2 million people are visually impaired, but eye care (testing and corrective lenses) is very expensive. Wazi Vision designs and provides eyeglasses at 80 percent of the cost of other glasses on the market. Wazi Vision also trains and employs women to design glasses, perform eye tests and manage delivery logistics. In order to provide low-cost eye care, Wazi Vision, supported by the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF) and Greentec Capital Partners, developed an eye testing software that uses Virtual Reality. The technology does not require an optometrist, helping Wazi Vision reach more remote communities that may lack an optical center. Since its inception, Wazi Vision has tested over 5,000 children in schools across Uganda, donates glasses to children who cannot afford even their cheaper version, and continues to donate 10 percent of every pair of glasses bought toward the purchase of a pair of glasses for a child in need.

These six women-led companies are helping those in poverty, as well as providing inspiration and empowerment for other women looking to own and run businesses. These companies not only benefit the women who have helped establish them but countless others in need.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr