The inaugural FemSTEM Africa event series is well underway, with two engaging sessions held so far! Over the past several weeks we have been thrilled to welcome nearly ninety attendees across the first two events of the series. These events featured both moderated talks and engaged audience discussions with women entrepreneurs who shared reflections on their journeys to date and insights for others taking on challenges in health innovation. 

FemSTEM Africa is part of a broad range of programming held in partnership with The Mastercard Foundation, as part of the African Higher Education Collaborative’s Health Entrepreneurship (HENT) Pillar. The HENT Pillar is working to empower women and youth entrepreneurs with training, mentorship and financial support to develop innovations, create jobs, and transform the health sector. As part of these efforts, FemSTEM Africa, jointly organized by H2i, SE Ghana and Sustineri Attorneys, is working to engage, celebrate and inspire women-led innovation across the African health landscape. 

On April 17th, the FemSTEM Kickoff Panel & Event took place, welcoming three remarkable entrepreneur panelists: Dr. Christelle Gireaneza, founder of URUKUNDO Initiative; Dr. Nikita Muthuuri, founder of Vectorgram Health; and Sylvia Nyaga, founder of Syna Consultancy. All three companies were a part of the 2022 African Impact Challenge Cohort and continue to be a part of the H2i venture community. The women shared critical reflections and generous insights to participants on topics including marketing and clinical validation processes, the role of mentorship and how to overcome barriers and roadblocks.  

Given the three women are leading health innovation in areas that are sometimes undervalued or seen as taboo (women’s health, reproductive health, sexual education and sanitation), rich discussion was had around how to create cultural and behavioural change to enable solutions to issues that are not broadly spoken of or validated. The women reflected on both their own experiences as women entrepreneurs and coming across prejudice, and on how conversative and patriarchal attitudes influence the reception of their solutions and work. 

On May 1st, we convened for the first Fireside at FemSTEM with guest Elsie Amoako, founder of Mino Care (formerly Mommy Monitor). The Firesides of FemSTEM are an interactive conversation series, each welcoming a woman entrepreneur working in the health space. Each session features a deep dive into their journey to date and invites participants to ask for insight and advisement.  

During this first session, with Fraidianie Sévigné (COO of Ripple Therapeutics) as moderator, Amoako reflected on her experience building a social-impact focused venture which is improving pre-natal care and health outcomes for Black and racialized parents. She spoke to a range of topics, including building a team with diversified expertise, staying agile to evolve and expand your product over time, building connections and trust with healthcare providers, and keeping in touch with the landscape you are working in. Among many pearls of wisdom, Amoako shared that her drive and success comes in part from staying dedicated to being in service to those she is working to help. 

A cornerstone of both events was the community-building and entrepreneurial peer-support that comes from sharing experiences and insights so openly. As the series continues, H2i, SE Ghana and Sustineri Attorneys look forward to continuing to build a community that celebrates and advances the leadership of women in health innovation! 

Looking ahead, our next two Firesides at FemSTEM happening on May 15th with Elizabeth Johnson and May 29th with Anna Ampaw. Further, FemSTEM Africa Pitch Competition applications are closing soon (apply here!) with the selected six finalists to be announced in the coming weeks. Finalists will compete on June 19th for a chance to win prizes totaling $25,000 CAD in cash prizes and $15,000 CAD in in-kind legal services. Registration will open soon to watch the pitches!

We hope to see you at the upcoming FemSTEM Africa events! These events are open to all and with building community as a focus, we invite you to bring along colleagues and friends who are passionate about women-led health innovation!