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A select group of Bahraini women behind a series of fledgling businesses are to be supported by a new programme that will see them flying to the US capital for training.
Wafa AlObaidat, founder of the Women Power Network; Hana Al Tareif, a co-founder of Daresni; and Kawthar Al Gallaf, founder of E-Jam’ia, are three of eight fellows making up the 2021 Bahrain Women’s Intensive – a project that aims to foster leadership in women-run ventures and enable them to scale-up their operations.
GulfWeekly spoke to them on how they plan to make the most of the opportunity.
Announced last October, the 2021 Bahrain Women’s Intensive is an incubator programme resulting from a collaboration between US-based startup incubator Halcyon, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Startup Bahrain.
The cohort will receive skills training, cloud computing credits and personalised support from AWS, culminating in a week-long residency at Halcyon’s headquarters in Washington D.C. this July.
First off the blocks, Wafa said: “The Women Power Network is dedicated to accelerating the success of women founders and professionals to build a world where women are leading and shaping the future.”
According to her, one of network’s greatest successes is hosting the Women Power Summit which over three years has engaged with 4,500-plus women and girls, building a community and allowing them to learn, grow and be connected with opportunities and mentorship.
Describing her selection to the Bahrain Women’s Intensive as a ‘great privilege’, she has a sense of responsibility to ‘not only present my true self, but to also be an ambassador for Bahraini women’.
“It is truly exciting to be part of an initiative that supports women and eradicates the belief of women being underrepresented in start-up ecosystems,” she added.
Wafa also finds it motivating and vows to continue developing her skills.
“I’m also taking this opportunity to learn from the seven other inspirational women who have been selected,” she said.
Next up is Hana Al Taraif, of the co-founders of Daresni Education & Training – a web-based platform and booking system connecting teachers with students for private, hourly in-home learning.
Hana says Daresni, which means ‘teach me’ in Arabic – has provided positive outcomes for parents, students, tutors, as well as Bahrain’s economy.
“For parents, the platform has made the process of finding tutors much easier,” she said, “and students get the extra support they need.
“For tutors, it is a secure platform for booking sessions and unemployed professionals get the chance to earn some money through private tuition services.”
Being selected to participate in the 2021 Bahrain Women’s intensive was ‘an honour’, added Hana. “This has been quite a journey so far and the Daresni team are looking forward to building a better future for all students, tutors and coaches.
“We want to put Bahrain on the map by offering unique support from the excellent community we have managed to build and will continue to build for our country.”
Looking to break stereotypes is Kawthar Al-Gallaf, the founder and chief executive of E-Jam’ia - a community-based financial system for individuals.
Kawther came with the ingenious idea of using a mobile app to digitise the traditional concept of Jam’ia - which means ‘cooperate in good deeds’ in Arabic, creating a platform for pooling funds to help people to collaborate in savings.
“I want to show that being a female founder and chief executive of a fintech startup is not as challenging as it might sound at first,” she said.
“Getting this opportunity with Halcyon would only make me feel more determined to scale and extend to different markets around the world to create a financial support system for communities by themselves beside I’m privileged to represent my beloved country and eager to inspire other females.”
While gender-equality is still a long way off as the tech sector, not just in Bahrain but around the world, is still heavily dominated by men, Halcyon’s chief innovation officer Ryan Ross is confident that the 2021 Bahrain Women’s Intensive will put participants in a position to grow their impact and ‘act as beacons’ for other women entrepreneurs in the tech space.
Research has shown that women leaders of US social enterprises have more diverse teams: they lift other marginalised people up alongside them.
“We look forward to seeing this be true of these Bahrain-based women-led tech ventures as well,” added Ryan.
He believes impact-driven businesses are the future of the global economy, and that in the long run they’ll out-perform traditional counterparts as they work to solve for the great 21st century challenges.
Ryan feels seeing women-led businesses with impact at their core scale and grow will inspire others to pursue more impact-driven work.
The other fellows of the programme are Daresni co-founder Thanaa Rabeea; Nadia Miujrers, founder of mental health app Circles; Huda Radhi, founder of Kinderhaus – a learning platform for special needs children; Saba Javed, founder of MallofWork - a platform that connects businesses with freelancers and Sahar Ghuloom, founder of On the Go, an online workout solutions provider.