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For Women’s History Month 2019, Celebrating 19 Inspiring Women Innovators Around The World!

Women around the world are finding creative solutions to problems facing the world today, and are breaking stereotypes while they do it.

The theme for Women’s Day 2019, which fell on 8thMarch, 2019, was “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.” In line with this theme, from the 1stof March to the 19thof March, we have featured 19 women, from 19 different countries, who are agents of positive change. Their innovations in response to global challenges, are truly praiseworthy.

While politicians around the world crib about how fighting climate change and pollution will take away the livelihood of many, these women prove that you can actually do both –create sustainable alternatives, while protecting the economic well-being of others.

An example of this is Sarah Toumi. Her Acacias for All initiative is not only helping to fight the onslaught of the Sahara Desert into farm lands, but is also helping farmers protect their source of income. It is also generating new opportunities by empowering female farmers. Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, via WeCyclers is doing something similar in Nigeria. WeCyclers not only helps to solve the garbage problem plaguing Lagos, but also generates employment and helps countless others generate cash from trash.

Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad, from Egypt, discovered a catalyst that can convert plastic into biofuel. It is a sustainable and safe way to rid ourselves from the mountains of plastic waste that are a global problem. Daphna Nissenbaum, in Israel, on the other hand, has developed a bioplastic, TIPA, that can decompose like an orange peel. This has the capability to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste generated. Estonian fashion designer Reet Aus has focused on the textile waste generated in garment factories. Via her UPMADE method and certification, leftover textiles are given a stylish new lease of life, and are prevented from ending up in landfills.

Other women are championing innovative solutions that bring much needed services to those who are underserved in their communities.

Aisa Mijeno, in the Phillipines, designed a lamp that runs on salt water. It has literally brought light into lives of people in rural communities that are not connected to the power grid. In Uganda, Brenda Katwesigye, noting how expensive and inaccessible eye care is for large sections of the population, took it upon herself to make things better. Her company, Wazi Vision, makes affordable eye glasses, out of recycled plastic. She has also developed a mobile app that can help with basic eye testing in areas where clinics are inaccessible.

South African, Thato Kgatlhanye has developed a truly novel solution to helping kids study better. Her solar powered school bags not only give the children in her community a sense of dignity, but also enough light to study and do their homework in the evenings when it gets dark, in an area where electricity cannot be taken for granted. Nga Tuyet Trang’s work is having a huge impact on reducing infant mortality, not only in her home country, Vietnam, but also in other developing countries around the world. Her company, MTTS manufactures and distributes low cost and easy to use versions of live saving medical equipment.

Masue Katayama and her daughter, Seiko Adachi are giving the elderly in Japan a life of dignity. Unlike other nursing homes that can make the elderly feel unappreciated and uncared for, the Shinkou Fukushikai run homes make them feel comfortable, respected and valued. Baba Residence, an initiative of Ideas Factory founded by Yanina Taneva, in Bulgaria, is also an innovative way to help the elderly. This residency programme which connects Bulgaria’s youth to the elderly, helps both generations gain from the interaction, and revives Bulgaria’s dying villages in the process.

Women have also recognized that information is power, and they are working to put this power into the hands of women who truly need it.

In Iran, Soudeh Rad’s Hamdam app, provides women with much needed information about sexual health and legal protections. In a country where the laws sanction gender based violence, the app, disguised as a period tracker, is a real game changer. It is a similar story in Bangladesh, where Ivy Huq Russell’s Maya Apa app, helps both men and women get answers to their anonymous queries without being judged.

Women are using existing forms of media in new ways, to empower women. A native of Hong Kong, Bonnie Chiu uses photography to help women tell their own stories. Her social enterprise, Lensational, puts cameras in the hands of marginalized women in developing countries, teaches them photography, and also assists them in selling their photos online. Maysoun Odeh Gangat, a Palestinian woman is challenging stereotypes about Arab Women in the media. Her NISAA FM and NISAA network, produce programming that show positive and progressive images of Arab Women.

Rema Rajeshwari IPS, in India, working from within the existing structure of the police force, is creating positive change. From helping the police become more gender sensitive to battling fake news, she is making policing more about the people it serves.

For others, change on a larger scale began in a very personal space.

For Zica Assis and Leila Velez, in Brazil, their own experiences with racism and hair politics, led to the development of Beleza Natural. This chain of salons not only made such services available to lower and middle class women, but also inculcated a sense of racial pride and self-esteem in the women they served. iPad apps developed by South Korean game developer Sooinn Lee to help her autistic son, are now helping make education inclusive for all children. In an attempt to get the best possible surgery for herself, trans woman Hayley Anthony, in the US, helped her doctor develop a surgery that gives other trans women looking for vaginoplasty more options.

Whatever be the cause that these women are fighting for, most of them have been told that they were reaching for the impossible. “Don’t do it,” they were told. For others, like queer feminist Soudeh Rad, there were great risks involved, owing to the political and social pressures. Others struggle with getting enough funding, or governmental support. Some like Brenda Katwesigye, battle internal demons like self-doubt.

However, these inspiring women are changing every “you can’t” into an “I can and I will.” We celebrate their courage, their sacrifices and their efforts to make the world a better place.

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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a

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