Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Business program helps Afghan and Rwandan women

 In this photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 Afghan mentee Razia Arefi holds a ceramic horse she brought with her from Kabul, Afghanistan at CFj ma...
 In this photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 Afghan mentee Razia Arefi, left, listens to mentor Sharon Evans at CFj manufacturing headquarters, as ...

International Women Entrepreneurs

In this photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 Afghan mentee Razia Arefi holds a ceramic horse she brought with her from Kabul, Afghanistan at CFj ma...

International Women Entrepreneurs

In this photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 Afghan mentee Razia Arefi, left, listens to mentor Sharon Evans at CFj manufacturing headquarters, as ...

Joan Twagira so loves the thought of readers passionately discussing the latest novel they've devoured that she's decided to start a club at her book store in Kigali, Rwanda, with the hope of drawing in more customers.
As she turns the pages of her black leather notebook, Twagira reads off some of the other ideas she got from a women's leadership program at Northwood University's suburban Dallas campus: Spend a day reading to children. Donate books to kids. Set up booths at community events to advertise her business.
"I love a challenge and I like to improve myself," Twagira said in explaining why she decided to join the Peace Through Business program.
The venture is akin to a mini-MBA program that brings Rwandan and Afghan entrepreneurs to the United States during the summer. Twagira and the other participants have gotten hands-on experience this month with American mentors on everything from installing accounting software to creating a Web site and how to manage employees.
The program's 30 women graduated Tuesday and the ceremony was filled with smiles and tears. Former first lady Laura Bush told the women she was impressed by their resilience.
"Your entrepreneurial spirit ... can further the stability and economic growth of your country," Bush said. "This is your chance."
As part of the privately funded program, the women study business basics in their native countries for eight weeks and are required to devise a business plan. Based on their attendance, scores and the viability of their business, 15 women from each country are selected for two weeks of leadership training and mentoring in the U.S. The program also pairs each participant to live with a female American entrepreneur who has a similar business.
In this year's program, the Rwandan and Afghan women had businesses that included clothing boutiques, coffee plantations, furniture making, and an ice cream shop.
Peace Through Business began when the U.S. State Department in 2006 requested that the Oklahoma City-based Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women create the training for Afghan women. The program expanded in 2008 to include female business owners from Rwanda, which had one of the fastest growing economies in East Africa last year.
"If we can teach women from Afghanistan and from any war torn country, if we educate her, she would educate her family and once you do that, you would educate her community," institute and program founder Terry Neese said.
The adversity of starting a business amid turmoil is something women from both countries understand. Twagira opened her book store nine years ago, while Rwanda was striving to recover from the 1994 genocide in which more than half a million people were slaughtered. Her business has since grown to two shops.
Fellow participant Razia Arefi is from Afghanistan and, like many, had to flee her country years ago when it was under Taliban rule. The Taliban banned women from getting an education. Since the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban government in 2001, Afghan women have made advances, but have recently become favorite targets as the Taliban have re-emerged.
Arefi has returned to Afghanistan, which has grown increasingly violent.
Each day when she leaves her house to go to work in the morning, she worries about her safety.
"Will I get back to home and see my children?" the 29-year-old mother of two said she asks herself.
Despite the challenges waiting back home and cultural differences, the participants and mentors say their time together has made them realize all have a challenging, yet similar balancing act: raising children, having a personal life, owning a business and encouraging independence in other women.
"We have sisters over there," said Arefi's mentor, Sharon Evans, who is president of CFj Manufacturing, a Fort Worth company that makes uniforms, jewelry, embroidered linens and other items. "They have the same goals, drives that we have."
___
On the Net:
http://www.ieew.org/
http://www.northwood.edu/


Updated : 2021-05-11 16:38 GMT+08:00