Nike Foundation Launches The World’s 1st Business Accelerator Program To Empower Girls


In November 2014 the Nike Foundation and an organization called the Unreasonable Group (seriously the best name ever!) who work with entrepreneurs to create social change. The campaign was called the Girl Effect Accelerator.

You may already be familiar with the Girl Effect initiative, which was actually started by the Nike Foundation. Now that 2015 has well and truly begun, so has this amazing new campaign which basically teams up social entrepreneurs and business mentors to come up with ways to empower girls in poverty-stricken countries to improve their current situations, and create financially stable futures for themselves and their communities, in turn changing the world. Hence, the “girl effect”.

The GEA is being billed as the world’s first business accelerator dedicated to benefiting girls in poverty, and that is pretty damn cool! Before the campaign was launched, 10 companies took part in a retreat with a group of mentors to come up with ways to improve their own business models to help girls in poverty (video below).


Philanthropist Melinda Gates outlined in a study for Science magazine (and has often talked about in the Gates Foundation annual reports) women in the developing world “tend to invest more of their earnings than men do in their family’s well-being — as much as 10 times more.”

The companies selected to take part have a pretty impressive collective sphere of influence. They operate in 30+ countries, average $2.2 million in revenue each year and are positioned to impact 10 million girls combined.

Some of the mentors who helped them during the retreat were entrepreneur and writer Seth Godin, founder of Jessica Jackley, Fadi Ghandour founder of Aramex (the first Arab country to go public on the NASDAQ), Holly Gordon founder of Girl Rising, and many more.

The campaign plans to tackle poverty by targeting key areas of need such as technological innovation, education, fuel and energy, hygiene services and health care.


Shaifali Puri, executive director of global innovation at the Nike Foundation, told the audience at a launch event for the campaign in San Francisco, there is also huge amount of untapped economic potential that goes hand in hand with these goals.

“Today there are over 250 million girls living in poverty. The realities they confront are inconceivable to most of us. We have learned that they are not simply victims of poverty. Instead, we, like them, believe that when empowered to reach their potential, they can play a crucial role in solving the toughest problems facing the world.”

India loses $383 billion in potential lifetime earnings from its 4 million adolescent pregnancies per year, and if adolescent girls in Ethiopia were able to complete secondary school, they could contribute about $6.8 billion to the country’s economy. The number of annual pregnancy-related deaths in Uganda, measured in lost income, for instance, amount to 30% of the nation’s gross domestic product.

“To unleash the massive scale of resources that matches the massive scale of these problems and to do so in a way that is self-generating and sustainable, is going to require having private sector resources and markets work for adolescent girls in extreme poverty,” she said.


Daniel Epstein, CEO and founder of the Unreasonable Group told Mashable that each organization chosen to participate in the incubator demonstrated a “proven logical path to achieving the impossible to “change the trajectory of global poverty.”

The BBC posted an article focusing on three of the ten companies who are part of the GEA. Jane Chen’s Embrace Innovations based out of Oakland, California and Bangalore, India, created a simple cost-effective body warming product that would prevent the deaths of premature babies in poverty-stricken areas.

Zubaida Bai, based in India, started a business called Ayzh, which sells a birth kit containing sterilized items that can prevent infections during childbirth for women who give birth at home or don’t have access to medical facilities. Many maternal health-related problems are preventable and Zubaida’s $3.00 kit is ensuring the death rates decrease.

US expat Megan White started a firm, now based in Kenya, called Zana Africa which makes low-cost sanitary pads. Megan moved to African in 2001 after graduating from Harvard and learned that many women in African communities will start missing school once they begin menstruating, and there is often a lot of social stigma surrounding menstruation in many poverty-stricken regions. One of the reasons for that is the lack of access to basic healthcare items like tampons or pads.


Her business is similar to that of Arunachalam Muruganantham from India, also known as “menstrual man“. He is a brilliant social entrepreneur who risked social pariah-dom and studied women’s used pads (yes you read that right, — USED PADS) to create a sustainable and cheap model for women in the poor villages of India. He did this because he would see his wife and other women using rather unhygienic materials such as dirty rags, ashes, and sand in lieu of proper sanitary pads.

Interestingly enough, Arunachalam’s business, Jayshree Industries, is also one of the ten companies being sponsored by the GEA.

You can see the full list of mentors and businesses working together to alleviate poverty for millions of girls around the world by clicking on the website, and learning how empowering a girl in all facets of life is like giving her a second chance at a future once thought of as a fantasy or distant dream.

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  1. Pingback: Development has failed – case for a 4th-sector | Gabazira's Blog

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