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Nairobi founder wins top award for empowering slum women
Elizabeth Mwangi, founder of Gwiji, a Kenyan start-up that economically empowers women from the slums of Nairobi, has won the Aurora Tech Award 2023. The award recognises women founders of IT start-ups who are challenging gender inequality in their field.
With 11 African women making it to the shortlist, Mwangi’s win is a testament to the rising number of women innovators confronting challenges across the continent.
Launched in May 2022, Gwiji connects cleaners in Nairobi’s slums with local clients. Thus far, the project has been able to complete more than 2,000 cleaning orders and increase a cleaner’s income from $2 to $10 per day.
“Through Gwiji, we have been able to economically empower more than 150 women who live in extreme poverty in Nairobi by connecting them to over 500 clients,” stated Mwangi.
Mwangi’s win highlights the critical role that female innovators are playing in Africa’s development. As she put it, “These women are the breadwinners in their families and finding work ensures that their families eat, and their children go to school.”
“This year’s award not only recognizes the efforts of these remarkable founders but supports the winners with cash prizes to help them reach their goals,” said Ekaterina Smirnova, executive director of the Aurora Tech Award. The winning project will receive a $30 000 cash prize. The award also offers mentorship resources to contribute to the start-ups’ further development.
Iva Gumnishka from Bulgaria won second place and a $20 000 cash prize with Humans in the Loop, a company providing data annotation services for computer vision to refugees and people in conflict situations. Rocket Learning, created by Namya Mahajan from India, won third place and a $10 000 prize for organising digital teacher-parent communities to make early childhood education accessible to low-income families.
Founded in 2021 by inDrive, a US-headquartered global mobility and urban services platform, the Aurora Tech Award supports women entrepreneurs who are using technology to develop their communities, with the overarching goal of challenging gender inequality in IT.
inDrive and the Aurora Teach Award recognise women who have become the driving force behind development and that connect communities to vital educational, health, and financial services.
Mwangi’s win represents a significant milestone in the African tech scene. She says, “It’s a great honour for me to have won this award. I’m thrilled to be recognised for my work, and I hope that this inspires other women to pursue their dreams in the tech industry.”
Her journey to success wasn’t easy. She faced several challenges along the way, including a lack of funding and resources. However, her determination and hard work paid off, and she was able to make a significant impact on the lives of many women in Nairobi’s slums.
Ultimately, Mwangi’s win sends a powerful message that women can make a difference in the tech industry and overcome gender inequality. Smirnova adds, “These women are proof that with hard work, determination, and creativity, anything is possible. We are proud to support them and look forward to seeing the impact they will continue to make in their communities.”
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