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The Five WE Empower Awardees gathered in New York for a week of trainings, networking opportunities and a dynamic pitch night where the packed audience voted Leah Lizarondo as the winner of a $20,000 grant

September 2019 – The five Awardees of the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge convened in New York this month for a packed week of training, networking opportunities and speaking engagements to boost their businesses.

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge is the first of its kind global business competition for social entrepreneurs who are advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and inspiring entire communities to act to create the world we want by 2030.

The WE Empower Challenge honors five women leaders, one from each of the five UN regions, who are pushing the SDGs forward through their business practices. This year, the Awardees included:

  • Lina Khalifeh, Founder and Owner of SheFighter (Jordan)
  • Christelle Kwizera, Founder of Water Access Rwanda (Rwanda)
  • Leah Lizarondo, CEO and Co-Founder of 412 Food Rescue (United States)
  • Zoya Lytvyn, Founder of Novopecherska K12 Private School and Osvitoria (NGO) (Ukraine)
  • Karla Ruiz Cofiño, Founder of The Digital Awareness Program (Guatemala)

The WE Empower Awardees sat down with Diane von Furstenberg while in New York. 

The opportunity recognizes their innovative work, provides capacity-building training sessions and high-level advocacy opportunities to the awardees. This program ignites awareness about the valuable contribution women entrepreneurs can make toward the SDGs.

The WE Empower Challenges Awardees convened in New York City during the week of the UN General Assembly on September 23-27, 2019. The awardees attended high-level events, such as the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit and the TED/Skoll/UNF We the Future Summit. The entrepreneurs were also welcomed to several trainings hosted by WE Empower partners such as Salesforce, BMO, GroYourBiz, and many more.

Awardees also participated in a dynamic pitch competition, hosted by fashion designer, activist and Vital Voices Board Member Diane von Furstenberg, to present their business for the opportunity to receive a $20,000 grant. Each Awardee presented a three-minute pitch to a packed house and an esteemed panel of judges – including Diane von Furstenberg herself – then answered questions to identify their business goals.

The audience voted in real-time, and 412 Food Rescue Founder Leah Lizarondo was declared the winner of pitch night! To make the moment even more impactful? Leah’s mother was in the audience to witness and take part of the whole thing.

Our congratulations to Leah and all of the WE Empower Awardees! We can’t wait to see what they accomplish next.


To learn more about WE Empower, our Awardees and our partners please visit our page here or our partner website here. 

Photo credit: UN Global Compact/Chae Kihn for J.S. Photo