From where I stand: Using blockchain technology to empower women

Olivier Mukuta, a social innovator who grew up in a refugee camp is working to create blockchain technology solutions to help empower women in humanitarian crisis situations.

Date: Friday, March 9, 2018

Olivier Mukuta. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Olivier Mukuta. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
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I always say I’ve lived three lives. I was born in Congo. And then grew up in Malawi in a refugee camp, and then my family moved to Norway when I was 18.

In Norway, both my father and I were working and getting good paychecks, and sending money back to help our friends in the refugee camp. But we were finding that the money was not being used as intended. I’d tell my friends the money was for school, but then find out it was being used for different things. It was frustrating.

In Malawi, my mother was a hair-dresser. A lot of women came to her to do these styles, of course some of them would pay her. But the problem is, whenever there is cash in the picture, this sort of created a situation between women and men in the refugee camp. It created friction. Men had been head of their families in their home country, but the roles were changing.

And it wasn’t just happening in my family. In some families, they fought because the men wanted to use the money for something that might not be a priority.

That sort of gave me a vision. What if you have a solution where the help and resources can be managed by only women?

We came up with VipiCash as a solution. I can send money to my aunt or family and friends and lock it in to a specific service, like school fees or groceries. The money can only to be managed by my aunt because she knows best what is good for the children.

We are also looking into how financial transactions can be done without a fee. Because why should it cost people to help other people? Blockchain allows us to cut all these costs and at the same time makes sure that the transaction is transparent and the donors always know what happened to the donation that they made.

One of our dreams is to help women run their own businesses through VipiCash. We want to create a market for women vendors exclusively. We are looking at this as a way of creating a movement for women.”


SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Olivier Mukuta and his team were among the winners at the first “blockchain hackathon” co-organized by UN Women and Innovation Norway in July 2017. Muktua’s team developed ‘VipiCash’, an app that uses blockchain technology to enable secure money transfer among women, so that they can have access and control over their own money, independent of the male members of their family. In January 2018, Mukuta attended the UN Women and UN Office of Information and Communications Technology (UN OICT) four-day simulation lab to explore cutting-edge solutions based on blockchain technologies that address challenges faced by women and girls in humanitarian settings. Mukuta’s work relates to Sustainable Development Goal 5, which includes a target on women’s equal rights to economic resources. It also relates to SDG 8, which aims to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men; and SDG 9 on fostering innovation and access to technology.