How do you boost gender equality across the world? That’s the big question being asked by the UN in their Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5), which is focused on gender equality. But while there’s no one answer to such a complex question, there are a multitude of ways different groups are trying to tackle it. One way? Technology.
That’s the answer that F-LANE – Vodafone Institute Accelerator for Female Empowerment is offering. F-LANE Accelerator was created by a partnership between The Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications (Vodafone’s European think and do tank), the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie in Munich, and Impact Hub Berlin. Their goals include reducing gender inequality in the tech world, democratizing education through technology, and boosting the participation of women in tech.
“We want to ensure that women and girls play a leading role in shaping the future”, Leon Reiner, Impact Hub Berlin’s Managing Director says. “There is an urgent need to create gender-inclusive technology and promote women’s participation in education, workforce, entrepreneurship, leadership, and, ultimately, digitalization. Technology offers a huge potential to overcome gender inequalities. Girls and women all over the world can be empowered by making best use of technology.”
During their six-week accelerator program, five ventures spend six weeks at Impact Hub Berlin preparing to become investment-ready. The program concludes with a demo day, at which point companies may be presented with investment opportunities from Vodafone Germany and other investors.
While founders may be male or female, the focus of every company has to be on female empowerment, as outlined by the UN’s female empowerment principles. So far, F-LANE Accelerator has successfully supported two cohorts, with the third one scheduled to start in mid-March. They’ve received over 500 applications from all continents and so far the ventures raised over 6 million in venture capital, combined.
Who are some of the companies that can boast participation in this exclusive accelerator so far? One company from the first cohort, Wazi Vision, is striving to bring eye glasses to underprivileged kids in Uganda. The company uses their own VR-enabled Wazi App to screen kids between the ages of 6 and 15 and then provides them with glasses that are made from recycled plastic. The glasses are designed and produced by female artisans, who are also trained to carry out the tests, and the company strictly only hires and trains women. In a country were underprivileged kids don’t have access to eye care and women often don’t participate in the formal economy, Wazi Vision is addressing two societal problems with one great solution.
As for the third, upcoming cohort, F-LANE Accelerator received over 180 applications from 57 countries. After an intensive review and screening process, they’ve narrowed it down to the five companies that will be joining them in Berlin. Those companies are: Free_D, from the UK (teaching trafficking victims in India 3D printing skills and employing them); FinMarie, from Germany (wealth management platform for and by women); breast IT, from Uganda (ultrasound glove to detect breast cancer); Mamabird, from the US (using drones to deliver healthcare products on the last mile in Malawi); Doctory, from Pakistan (platform to find doctors and special advice for women).
While it can sometimes feel overwhelming to tackle an issue as large as equality for women and girls, companies like these five — and the ten from the previous two cohorts — bring hope that we might actually be able to meet SDG 5 in time.
F-Lane Accelerator’s work to ensure that women and girls play a leading role in shaping the future is contributing to the following Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):