Panel + Q&A (*Maximum 4 Panelists)

Pivoting to Sustain and Empower Women During Covid-19

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The year 2020, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, was intended to be ground-breaking for gender equality. Instead, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back. The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.

United Nations, `The Impact of Covid-19 on Women, April 2020. 

Women have been disproportionately impacted by Covid 19.  Compounded economic impacts are felt more among women who generally earn and save less. Their health is also at greater risk as they work on the frontlines to provide care, and because resources for reproductive health are being reallocated. Women have less access to the resources needed to work remotely for pay, and unpaid work has increased with children at home, and heightened needs of the elderly.  Domestic violence is also on the rise, as women are forced to be home with their abusers.  All of this within a context of increasing fragility and decreasing social cohesion. 

These realities are no doubt being witnessed within the impact investing community. Recent efforts to help our portfolio companies become more gender inclusive have given three impact first investors the tools to identify and react quickly to the effects of Covid-19 on women. 

Please join us in an interactive discussion on how Acumen, Root Capital and NESsT have learned through systematic surveys and ongoing mentoring with our portfolio companies, the severity of the impact of the crisis on women but also how women are working at the frontlines of keeping their businesses strong and their communities safe and resilient. 

Through tangible examples, we will share some of the solutions we have tried and how they have worked.  We have also invited several entrepreneurs to share their stories. 

Confirmed Panelists


Nicole Etchart is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of NESsT.  Founded in 1997, NESsT invests in  enterprises that create quality jobs to empower excluded people and sustain the planet. To date the organization has invested close to $20 million in 1200 enterprises creating close to 60,000 quality jobs.   Nicole leads the organization’s strategy, growth and impact worldwide including entrance to twelve countries and investment in a diverse portfolio of high impact enterprises that have directly improved the quality of life of over half a million marginalized people. She oversees a senior team to carry out NESsT´s goals while maximizing the organization’s resources and impact. Nicole is the author and editor of many Publications  and ArticlesShe currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE).


Yasmina Zaidman

Yasmina Zaidman is the Chief Partnerships Officer at Acumen, which works to change the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. She leads its work to engage with corporate partners and institutions that share Acumen’s commitment to tackling poverty. She also spearheaded Acumen’s gender integration work and co-authored the report Women and Social Enterprises: How Gender Integration can Boost Entrepreneurial Solutions to Poverty. She initiated the $22 million Pioneer Energy Investing Initiative with corporate, government and foundation partners, which aims to bring energy access to 8 million people. Ms. Zaidman has worked in international development, corporate sustainability and social entrepreneurship for twenty-five years. She is on the board of the White Ribbon Alliance, which advocates for safe and respectful birth for women, and KadAfrica, a social enterprise in Uganda that supports women’s livelihoods. She received a BA from Vassar and her MBA from Stanford. 


Katie Naeve

Katie Naeve is Director of Impact and Partnerships and Lead of the Women in Agriculture Initiative at Root Capital, a global organization that invests in the growth of small and growing agricultural businesses that transform rural livelihoods. As head of the organization’s Impact team, she leads the design and implementation of Root Capital’s impact measurement and management strategy, and develops and grows strategic and innovative partnerships to drive impact. She also leads the Women in Agriculture Initiative, an organization-wide effort to increase investment in and economic opportunity for women throughout agricultural value chains. To date the Initiative has invested over $260 million in gender inclusive businesses that have reached nearly half a million women smallholders. Katie has 15 years of experience in international development policy, programing and research, and is on the board of two non-profits focused on youth and girls’ empowerment. She holds a masters in public policy from Harvard.


Unconfirmed Panelists

We will select 1 entrepreneur to join the panel.

Eric KaduruKadAfrica, Uganda – article on Eric

Dr. Sara Saeed KhurramSehat Kahani, Pakistan

Dr.Sara Saeed Khurram is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Sehat Kahani. = Sehat Kahani works on improving basic health care in communities through a spectrum of services focused on primary health care consultation, health awareness and health counselling. Dr. Sara Saeed recently won the APTECh Young Entrepreneurs award for Sehat Kahani and her work was also featured in a BBC documentary.

Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram has won notable awards such as CRDF Global, Ashoka Changemakers, ISIF Asia, the Unilever Sustainable living Young Entrepreneurs Awards and the Unicef- Global Goal Campaigner Award 2016 for her role formerly with doctHERs. She has been part of a well-known accelerator in Pakistan; Invest2 Innovate. She is also a part of regional Acumen fellowship cohort 2016.

Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram has been born and bred in Karachi. She has done her MBBS from DOW University of Health Sciences. Currently, she is enrolled in the Health Policy Management Programme at The Aga Khan University of Health sciences.

Gayathri Jolly MasterG, India – article on Gayathri

Marta del Rio –  Wasi Organics, Peru

Marta founded Wasi Organics, a unique Peruvian snack company based on environmental sustainability. Born in Peru, Marta studied and worked in Europe in the consumer goods, retail and financial services sectors at Procter & Gamble, L’Oreal, Mars, Burger King and American Express, based in London and Madrid. After spending 20 years in the corporate sector, Marta began to feel that she could leverage her business skills and experience to promote a social impact.

Passionate about sustainable development and women’s empowerment, Marta founded the social enterprise, Wasi Organics, in 2013 with the belief that social impact, environmental responsibility and economic sustainability are not mutually exclusive. Marta goes to great lengths to find the most rare and special superfoods of the Andes and Amazon rainforest and blends them into delicious lifestyle snacks, integrating small farmers’ associations into the company’s supply chain.  Wasi Organics empowers local farmers through the usage of single-origin black corn, nutrient-rich rainforest honey, Andean grains and Amazonian nuts.  Their objective is to build a portfolio with a clear focus on “better for you” natural foods and lead the agenda on positive change in the food industry.


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  1. Gender Lens strategies are urgent! Not only because COVID-19, that only put a light on the problem that we face for decades, centuries now. The world cannot continue without these lens. This panel is exciting and urgent for all of us.

  2. I love the concept of an interactive discussion. So often the panels at SOCAP miss out on the expertise found in the audience and from social entrepreneurs. Great addition to the panel!

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