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Winners Revealed For The Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards 2024 The achievements of women who run SMEs headquartered or with offices in Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa, across 15 different award categories were recognized and lauded.

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Farooq Salik/Entrepreneur Middle East

On June 6, 2024, the third edition of the Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards was held at the Bluewaters Forum by Banyan Tree in the UAE. This installment of the event, which was the first that was staged in-person, saw a convergence of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and other stakeholders from all round the world to celebrate the work of female entrepreneurs .

Hosted by UAE-based broadcast journalist Sonal Rupani, the Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards 2024 recognized and lauded the achievements of women who run small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) headquartered or with offices in Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa, across 15 different award categories. The winners were decided through a rigorous vetting process by the Entrepreneur Middle East team, as well as a judging committee chaired by Mastercard and industry experts.

Sonal Rupani was the host of the Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards 2024. Source: Farooq Salik/Entrepreneur Middle East

The Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards 2024 was kickstarted with a speech from Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Noting that the day was designed to be "full of inspiration and energy," Ajmal reminded the audience that the Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards was launched in 2022 with the aim to highlight entrepreneurial women who are shaping the future of the emerging markets around the world.

Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, EEMEA, Mastercard. Source: Farooq Salik/Entrepreneur Middle East

Following Ajmal's keynote address, the event featured two panel discussions that delved into distinct and relevant issues that pertain to female entrepreneurs and SME owners. The first of these, titled "Breaking The Glass Ceiling: Women Leadership In SMEs," was moderated by Omoke Adebanjo, Senior Vice President, Merchant & Commerce, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard. The panel featured three speakers including Aleksandra Agatowska, CEO of PZU Life (2020-2024), World Economic Forum Contributor, and co-founder of Luu Kids; Nezha Alaoui, CEO, Women Choice; and Ola Doudin, co-founder of Bitoasis.

Source: Farooq Salik/Entrepreneur Middle East

The second panel discussion of the day, which was moderated by Beata Mońka, CEO, Art of Networking, Owner of BMBC, was titled "Innovation And Creativity: Fueling Business Growth." The panelists for this discussion included Alya Al Zarouni, COO at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC); Mila Smart Semeshkina, founder and CEO Lectera.com, and founder and President, Women's Empowerment Council, as well as Mastercard's own Ajmal.

Source: Farooq Salik/Entrepreneur Middle East

This was followed by a keynote address by Fadi Ghandour, Chairman of Wamda Capital and founder of Aramex. In a speech that was aimed at highlighting the entrepreneurial trait of perseverance, Ghandour explored the story of a woman in the besieged area of Rafah in Palestine, who manufactures diapers for babies and toddlers at discounted prices. Ghandour ended the narration saying, "This story, to me, is an example of entrepreneurship as life."

Fadi Ghandour, Chairman of Wamda Capital and founder of Aramex. Source: Farooq Salik/Entrepreneur Middle East

The ceremony came to a close with the announcement of the winners of the 2024 edition of the Women SME Leaders Awards 2024. Here is the full list of winners (all images are courtesy Farooq Salik/Entrepreneur Middle East):

The Visionary: Hanane Benkhalouk, founder, Tawazoun (UAE)

The Health Custodian: Chelsea Hornby, founder, Elle International (South Africa)

The F&B Leader: Laura Kaziukoniene, founder and CEO, Super Garden (Lithuania)

The Fashion and Beauty Leader: Leda Di Marti, CEO, Maelle Group LLC (UAE)

The Leader of Tomorrow: Reem Musabbah, co-founder, Unipreneur Inc, and Head of Community Engagement and Membership, Women in AI UAE Technology (UAE)

The Innovator: Farah Zafar, co-founder and CEO, Lyvely (UAE)

The Retailer: Pamela Lilburne Opie, founder and CEO, Linen Obsession Textile Trading Llc (UAE)

The Creative Leader: Fay Wong, Director and Partner, BID LLC (UAE)

The Professional Services Leader: Yuliia Fedosiuk, CEO, UAPAY (Ukraine)

The Media Leader: Jacqueline Lawrence, Highlands FM Radio (Tanzania)

Momrepreneur Of The Year: Farah Ahmed, founder and CEO, The Baby Garage (Egypt)

Home-Based Business Of The Year: Alicia English, Executive Director, The Olive Exchange (South Africa)

The Social Impact Leader: İpek Kıraç of Suna'nın Kızları (Turkey) - winner was not present at the ceremony

The Educator: Jessy Radwan, founder and CEO, Carerha (Egypt)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Smita Francis, founder and Chair, Namibia Women in Engineering Association (Namibia) - winner was not present at the ceremony

Related: Mastercard's Amnah Ajmal Discusses Digital Payment Trends At Dubai Fintech Summit 2024
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