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Afghan and Rwandan Women Learn Entrepreneurial Skills From U.S. Mentors

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In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Emelienne found herself alone. Despite the hardships she faced for survival, she persevered, keeping her eyes on the road ahead. With hope for the future, Emelienne, along with other women in her community, developed a cooperative based on the one skill they all had: sewing. Today, she is the treasurer and master seamstress for the company, which sells accessories and crafts to more than 30 retail stores across the United States.

This is the story of one of the 22 women from Afghanistan and Rwanda who traveled to the United States earlier this month to participate in the 2013 PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS program. These entrepreneurs are spending three weeks in the United States, gaining valuable skills and insight they can use to build and expand their own businesses, as well as to train others in their communities to do the same.

The program began with a weeklong "Business Boot Camp" at Northwood University, featuring high-level discussions with experts on specific business, leadership and public policy topics. This week the Afghan and Rwandan women are spending time with American women business owners in matched professions, living in their homes and going to work with them each day. This year, for example, an Afghan midwife who plans on starting a preschool is paired with an OB/GYN in Oklahoma City who is also the founder of a local charter school. Upon the completion of the mentorship in the United States, the women will celebrate with a graduation reception on Tuesday, July 30 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

To meet some of the women or to follow their activities check out the IEEW Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @IEEW_ptb.