Local program awards local businesswomen 

click to enlarge ESTEFANIA VASQUEZ
  • Estefania Vasquez

Two decades of Taliban control forced women out of school, drove literacy rates down to one of the lowest in the world and left Afghanistan’s economy in shambles. In 2002, the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council was created by President George Bush and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai as a public-private sector effort to help mitigate the damages done to these women. One result of that initiative is housed in Oklahoma City.

The Peace Through Business program, which operates under the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW), was founded by Terry Neese after she was asked to help women in war-torn countries. For 10 years, IEEW has provided women entrepreneurs in Rwanda and Afghanistan with the business tools to empower and support themselves in the face of extreme adversity.

The program picks 30 women who aspire to better themselves and women around them in their countries and provides them with intensive business training for 10 weeks. Fifteen top students are flown to the United States to receive additional training created by Northwood University in Michigan and invaluable mentorships from American women in similar business endeavors.

“At the end of March, 15 women are selected by an independent selection committee to come to the United States in July to obtain education on how to market their businesses more effectively,” Neese said.

Business owners in Oklahoma City and Dallas host the students in their homes as part of the mentorship portion of the program.

“They are matched with an Oklahoma woman business owner who owns a similar industry to what they own back home,” Neese explained. “They can live and work with her in her business and see how she manages her family time and her business time.”

In honor of IEEW’s tenth year and the local women contributing their time and skills, the inaugural 10for10 Making a Difference Awards event will be held July 19 at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, 7000 NW Grand Blvd., in Nichols Hills.

“We have so many Oklahoma women who host and mentor these women while they’re in the United States and have done that over the last 10 years that it would be important to recognize women in Oklahoma who have made a difference in our state,” Neese said.

Following the 10for10 theme, Neese said there will be 10 categories of honorees in areas such as government/private sector, faith/ministry, volunteer, youth and seniors. The planning committee consists of women entrepreneurs, including Susan Chambers, a founding doctor of Lakeside Women’s Hospital. Event organizers hoped for at least 40 nominations from the Oklahoma community at large and were delighted to receive 68. An independent selection committee reviewed the finalists.

According to Neese, the question “What have they done in Oklahoma to really impact people’s lives in the state of Oklahoma?” was asked.

Perhaps the most important part of the 10for10 awards will be its cultural exchange, as several Peace Through Business students will attend, visit with guests and show off trade skills.

“People can meet the women and talk to the women about their country and their businesses,” Neese said. “For example, Chantal, who is from Rwanda, has the only woman-owned auto garage.”

The awards ceremony is open to the public, and guests can browse several pop-up shops before and after. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served.

Some of the 10for10 sponsors are Bank of America, AT&T and Langston University.

Visit ieew.org to learn more and find tickets.

Print headline: Lauding liberty, Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women celebrates 10 years of service with its inaugural 10for10 event.

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