Changing the Rules of the Game: Innovating the Way to Equality
Date: 02 March 2019
Across Europe and Central Asia, women are industry leaders, innovators, activists and social entrepreneurs. Each day, they bring their ideas and their hearts into transforming our world through the empowerment of women and girls. They are changing the ways business is conducted, cities are built, services are delivered. Their way is a smart, sustainable one, and in sharing some of their inspiring stories, we salute their ingenuity and courage.
Aina Dosmakhambetkyzy, 33, is the CEO of the “Method Digital Education” programming school, an educational centre for children and adults to learn software programming skills. A project for girls called “Girls Coding” teaches programming from scratch, and offers motivational workshops and master classes with IT leaders in Kazakhstan. Dosmakhambetkyzy is also a blogger and the leader of various digital and social projects to empower women. She has joined UN Women to raise awareness of social norms preventing many women and girls from choosing the sciences as a profession.
With years of corporate experience focusing on eCom and digital, Alyona Tkachenko, 29, co-founded a company that makes “Nommi,” the world’s first intelligent router for travellers. Its innovative technologies allow unlimited access to a worldwide Wi-Fi database and offer high-quality global connection for travellers. Tkachenko is committed to promoting STEM among women and girls, and is on the Forbes list of "30 under 30" in Kazakhstan.
Amina Karic, 52, has over 20 years of experience working in software development, strategic planning and management in the IT industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has been actively involved in the development and growth of Authority Partners, a US-based IT company that supports the UN “IT Girls” initiative in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2016. Karic is committed to creating new values, educating new talents and developing the IT industry. She is driven towards inspiring new generations to take advantage of all the opportunities in the IT industry, to create better lives for themselves and contribute to the society they live in.
As Innovation and Entrepreneurship Advisor for KosovaLive, the first online subscription based news agency in Kosovo , Annea Hapçiu, 29, backs social change through social entrepreneurship and the economic and social empowerment of girls and women. One of her current projects: collaborating with UN Women on a national data system to track cases of gender-based violence. As a founder of the Kosovo office of GlobalGirl Media, Ms. Hapçiu oversaw the training of girls on skills in demand in the media and creative industries. The work of the office garnered honours in Kosovo, Europe and the United States for contributions to gender equality.
At the age of 14, Blerina Ago became the first girl to raft down a river in Albania. She later founded the Albania Rafting Group and emerged as a leading proponent of environmentally friendly tourism, receiving numerous awards for her commitment to civic engagement and the preservation of river ecosystems. Ago, 31, serves as an advisor to the Albanian Minister of Tourism and Environment. She has worked intensively to create and launch Albanian Adventure Resort, a social enterprise to develop adventure tourism through outdoor sports and engagement with local communities.
Five years ago, Irena Chaushevska, 37, founded the first private startup accelerator for new business development in the Republic of North Macedonia, NewMan’s BA. Among her three tech patents is one for a multilayered space suit with a liquid cooling pressurization system, created at the NASA Ames Research Center. Her cooperation with NASA brought the “NASA Space Apps Challenge” to her country, and she recently struck an agreement with the European Space Agency to organize their innovation competition, “Act in Space.” In 2014, Chaushevska was selected as a Women Entrepreneurial Leader by the International Council for Small Business in Washington, DC.
Iryna Rubis, 39, is an author and former CEO of business media bureau Ekonomika+, with a readership of 1.2 million a month. As an entrepreneur, stereotype hater and mother of three, she authors a platform for moms in business, womo.ua. She has joined UN Women to promote the Sustainable Development Goals through national and international forums that mobilize people around the themes of gender equality and diversity.
Maja Lalic, 46, is a renowned Serbian architect and expert in gender equality and climate change. Described by The New York Times as Belgrade's "most cutting-edge homegrown architect," she is the founder and creative director of Belgrade's Mikser Festival. This May, the festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary under the slogan "Circulate," with a call to embrace the circular economy, which minimizes waste and makes the most of resources. Lalic collaborates frequently with UN Women, including most recently on a survey measuring patterns of household waste. Read more.
Monika Rizovska, 30, is committed to empowering women in STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) through her work as Business Development Manager at Girls in Tech Macedonia . The initiative organizes mentorships, networking, community engagement, and other events to bring women and technology together. For International Women’s Day, Rizovska will join high-school students for the 10th edition of Women’s Rights Nights, an annual event sponsored by the City of Skopje in partnership with UN Women, local universities and the Embassy of Sweden.
Müjde Esin, 34, founded the award-winning KizCode (GirlCode), a social enterprise harnessing technology to empower girls and young women from minority and disadvantaged communities in Turkey. Through partnerships with companies and government institutions, KizCode has reached 2,000 girls in the past three years with skills training and other initiatives, helping them gain emotional and financial independence. Esin was a keynote speaker at the 2017 International Day of Girl Child Conference organized by UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA in partnership with the Aydın Doğan Foundation. Read more.
Nino Nanitashvili was just 18 when she became the only girl in Georgia involved in a Google developer group. She went on to found Women Techmakers, which encourages women to explore new roles in IT. The 26-year-old and her team arrange hackathons and camps for girls to create technological products and gain confidence in their abilities. A founder and director of the Innovation Support Fund, a non-governmental organization, Nanitashvili has also overseen a multiple peacebuilding engagements, data-mapping programs, youth camps, entrepreneurial and educational initiatives for more than 3,000 youth and young women across the country. She’s currently working with UN Women to train more than 100 women and girls in five regions on digital skills that will open new career opportunities. Read more.
As head of the municipality of Naiman, a town in south-western Kyrgyzstan, Roza Shamaeva, 41, joins young advocates and women’s self-help groups in improving water services and management. She has addressed many fundamental challenges facing her community, coming up with solutions to electricity shortages, poor street lighting and gaps in payment for water. Due to her advocacy, farmers have started to apply modern agricultural methods that boost crop productivity while protecting the environment.
Teacher Tatiana Ciaglic, 35, has been among the pioneers of distance and e-learning in Moldova by co-founding an online educational platform called E-learning. Developed through a project managed by UN Women and supported by the Government of Sweden, the platform is the first to provide courses for managers and staff in public and private enterprises to learn about legal issues relevant to their businesses. Ciaglic’s goal: help train professionals in a new and more efficient way.
34-year-old entrepreneur Victoria Danila designs clothes and other products tailored to the needs of premature babies. Each product is carefully crafted in consultation with neonatologists, and with consideration for the medical procedures that these babies must endure. Danila participated in the Start-up Academy, an initiative by the Moldovan Association of ICT Companies in partnership with UN Women. It seeks to stimulate innovation and business potential among young entrepreneurs in Moldova, with a special focus on women in technology. For her commitment, Danila has gained a patent and 11 gold medals at international exhibitions. Read more.
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 This is the official name of the organization. UN Women recognizes the official name of the country as the Republic of North Macedonia.