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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

For five days, the women attended Business Boot Camp at Northwood University in Cedar Hill and listened to lectures on specific business, leadership and public policy topics. Each woman spent one week with her mentor, an American woman business owner who works in the same or a similar industry.

They attended the IEEW Summit in Dallas, which featured guest speakers from the private sector, government agencies and elected officials. The highlight of the event was the women pledging to be “Ambassadors of Change.”

A graduation gala ended the internship, and the women were declared “Change Agents” and were encouraged to go home and empower others.

The third phase of the program involves email communication between the women and their mentors for a year.

To participate in the program, the women had to go through a stringent application process. They had to have already opened their businesses to be eligible to apply. Once selected, the women were required to pay for their U.S. visas and program book. The institute paid for everything else.

Grace Mulinda and Grace Umulisa, two program participants from Rwanda, said that they believed the program was beneficial because it prepared women to help further Rwanda’s economy and promote sustainable development.

Mulinda is the founder and managing director of Royal Links Ltd., a company that does customs cargo clearing and forwarding. Umulisa owns a tourism company that offers tour packages to Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and East Africa.

Rose Busingye, another program participant from Rwanda, said that the program enlightened her to believe that she could achieve great success in her fashion retail business.

“What this program has done for me is to open my eyes to what other opportunities are out there. Before I came into this program, I was thinking about my little one and looking mostly at the impossible. But then I was introduced to this program, and even just traveling to the U.S., it opens your eyes that if there’s other women here who have succeeded, why not me. I can make my mark,” Busingye said.

Busingye expressed her appreciation for the program and explained why it is important for women in Rwanda to be business-owners.

“I think that the character of a woman in itself is a good place to start, because when women go into business, we nurture. We are always looking out for other people’s interest. So, when women are trained to be business people, the impact of their success is so far reaching. They’ll help their families. They’ll strive to educate their children and relatives. I believe that when you put money in the hands of a woman, that money goes a long way,” Busingye said.

IEEW is looking to start the program’s next application process this fall.