Press Release

2 women-led businesses win GIZ Her&Now’s  Close The GAP Grand Challenge

~ GIZ Her&Now announces 2 winners for the Grand Challenge on Gender and Progress (GAP) with a stipend of up to 1,000 euros to help implement their solutions

~ Will enable 2 women entrepreneurs in making Sexual and Reproductive Health affordable, accessible, and gender-inclusive and creating safe spaces for Indian youth through the arts 


New Delhi, 29 January 2022– GIZ India’s Project Her&Now has been creating a conducive framework for women-led businesses in India since 2018. Through its latest initiative, Close the GAP Grand Challenge, GIZ’s Project Her&Now and the Programme Migration and Diaspora have come together with Unlock Impact, to source solutions around gender and progress. Priyal Agrawal of StandWeSpeak and Vandana Asha of Rang Karwan were recognised as the winners of the challenge from participants across India. Both winners were recognised for their innovative solutions in addressing key challenges to achieve gender equality and get stipends up to 1,000 Euros to help implement their solutions.

The Grand Challenge for Gender and Progress (GAP) saw participation from women-led businesses that are based in India, range from for-profit to non-profit organisations (section 25/8 company) and have been operational for a minimum of 6 years.

In addition to the cash stipend of up to 1000 Euros each for StandWeSpeak and Rang Karwan, the winners also get access to a network of women entrepreneurs. Shortlisted finalists got a pitch masterclass along with mentoring hours from 5 mentors that helped them refine their pitches.

Vaishali Neotia – Co-founder and CEO at MERXIUS, and Consultant at Ashoka, Rashmi Rammohan – Co-founder of FlexiBees, Jagmandeep Singh – Founder and CEO at SVIPJA, and Consultant at Stanford Seed, Priya Thachadi – Co-founder of Unlock Impact and CEO at Villgro Philippines, and Aditi Seshadri – Co-founder of Unlock Impact, and Business Transformation Advisor at Stanford Seed offered mentoring hours from January 19-27.

The awardees were selected by the jury comprising, Mr. Ullas Marar, Technical Advisor, Project Her&Now at GIZ, Mr. Praveen Kumar – Project Coordinator for Programme Migration & Diaspora at GIZ, and Ms. Priya Thachadi – Co-founder of Unlock Impact and the CEO at Villgro Philippines.

Julia Karst, Head of Project Her&Now, GIZ said, “Since the beginning of our project, we have been working to become a catalyst of change and create an enabling environment for women-led enterprises in India. Apart from supporting over 700 women entrepreneurs through our incubation and acceleration programmes, we wanted to do more. Close The GAP Challenge is an effort in that direction. We are glad to be able to help the winners implement their solutions to create a more gender-equitable India.”

StandWeSpeak, a women-centric healthtech venture that blends Artificial Intelligence with professional expert support to help them make informed decisions about their reproductive health and sexual wellness, was selected for their work in making SRHR more affordable, accessible, and gender-inclusive for the Indian youth.

Rang Karwan, on the other hand, uses art (specially theatre) as a tool to co-create empathetic spaces for adolescents, youth and women. A woman-led organisation and a team of applied theatre, process drama and Theatre of the oppressed (TO) practitioners, Rang Karwan works with other feminist organizations and individuals to create democratic, safe spaces at the grassroot level.

The winners were shortlisted from the 11 business pitches to the jury on 28th January 2022.

The grand challenge saw diverse entries by businesses in sub-sectors like ‘Enabling Better Recognition for Unpaid Work by Women and Girls and their contribution in the pandemic’, ‘Improving Socio-Economic Outcomes for Women & Girls in Rural India’, ‘Creating Equal and Diverse Workplace to level the playing field for women and underrepresented groups’ and ‘Breaking taboos in public discourse around physical and emotional abuse of Women & Girls’ among many others.


About GIZ Her&Now

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is implementing the project ‘Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs and Start-ups by Women’ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and in partnership with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Government of India, to support aspiring and existing women entrepreneurs in India.

·        Since its inception in 2018, the project has been creating an enabling environment for women-led enterprises in India. It is working on it through the following touchpoints:
Incubation and Acceleration support programmes for women entrepreneurs in tier II and tier III cities in the North Eastern Region, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra. So far, these programmes have supported over 700 women entrepreneurs. In the North East and Rajasthan, the project has facilitated women entrepreneur-led networks like WE Manipur and AWARE in Rajasthan.

·        WINcubate, a gender-sensitive entrepreneurship support training, (developed in collaboration with Dhriiti- The Courage Within) equips incubators to adopt women-centric incubation practices. 10 Atal Innovation Mission incubators and 12 Govt. of Gujarat incubators in the country have undertaken this training so far.

·        The  Film-and Media Campaign celebrates women entrepreneurs and their contribution to society and the economy. In order to stir a positive mindset change, the project has produced 4 award-winning short films to be screened in over 40 cities of India.

Leave a Response