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Mentoring Rwanda, Afghanistan entrepreneurs

Chelsea Jones | 8/26/2013, 12:23 a.m. | Updated on 8/26/2013, 12:52 p.m.
With a mission to empower women who have suffered oppression and marginalization, and whose homelands have been devastated by genocide, ...
Dr. Terry Neese, founder and CEO of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women; keynote speaker Mary Millben; Sultana Hakimi, wife of Afghanistan Ambassador Eklil Hakimi; and Rwandan Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana, stand among the mentors and mentees who participated in the IEEW Mathilde Mukantabana Facebook page

The Dallas Examiner

With a mission to empower women who have suffered oppression and marginalization, and whose homelands have been devastated by genocide, war and poverty, the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women held its Peace Through Business program last month. Founded in 2006 by Dr. Terry Neese, an entrepreneur, pilot and political strategist, IEEW promotes women’s leadership and entrepreneurship through education and mentoring strategies.

During the internship program, 21 women entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Africa and Kabul, Afghanistan, were offered business training and mentorship through a three-phase structured program.

Phase-one involves eight weeks of in-country classroom training. Before coming to the U.S., the women took classes in Rwanda and Afghanistan that focused on leadership, entrepreneurship, accounting, marketing and operations.

In addition, the women developed business plans that will be used to guide their businesses and apply for loans. Former program participants certified to teach the curriculum taught the classes.

Phase-two of the program, which is the internship, began with a luncheon at the International Museum of Cultures in Duncanville. Nina Vaca, Hispanic community leader and founder and CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources Inc., a Dallas-based IT staffing company worth $250 million, was the guest speaker.

After sharing her story of struggle and triumph, Vaca gave the women three lessons. The first lesson was that they should be silent examples in their communities. Vaca expressed how seeing her parents, who were entrepreneurs, be silent examples taught her a lot about how to run a business, how to work with people, and how to manage money.

Finding support was the second lesson. Vaca attributed her success and current ability to balance work and family life to having a supportive family and spouse. The third lesson was that the women should be role models and give back to their communities.

“You are the future; that’s exactly who you are. You are the few selected women who have been chosen to come to this country, learn, meet people, and create networks. When you go back to your country, you hold your shoulders high. You say, ‘you know what? I’ve been given an opportunity, and now I have a responsibility. I’m going to be a role model to the women next to me, and I’m not going to succeed just for me, but for others,’” Vaca said.

Vaca also advised the women to market themselves and build up a reputation of credibility and excellence. She told them that they could start giving back to their communities once they had obtained a reasonable amount of success. However, she warned them not to neglect their businesses while doing community work, for their businesses are the means by which they make a living.

Moreover, she convinced the women to not feel guilty about having a career and being a mother. As a mother of four, Vaca admitted that she has at times felt guilty. But she imparted that she is a very present mom with her children

and knows that she is working to ensure their future.

Concluding, Vaca urged the women to be courageous in asking questions. She conveyed that she received this advice from her friend Sheryl Sandburg, COO of Facebook and author of the recently popular book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. She later gave each of them a copy of the book.