Entrepreneurship Program Connects Women From Across Africa
This year, the State Department’s African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) brought almost 50 women from 37 nations together in Washington DC. According to Atlanta Black Star, while they may have come from different backgrounds and spoke different languages, their common interest in improving their communities will hopefully spark meaningful business connections.
The AWEP program was started in 2010 to connect Sub-Saharan women entrepreneurs who run small and medium sized business that assist the community. The delegates spend three weeks in the US to learn about best business practices and professional development skills from policymakers, industry associations, nonprofit groups and business professionals.
“Sometimes you don’t even realize what we are doing for our community,” Gloria Kamanizi Uwizera, a participant from Rwanda said. Uwizera is the founder of Glo Creations, an art and fashion business with five full-time staff members.
“I’ve started … sharing my story with them just to inspire them not to look at themselves as if they don’t have potential, as if they don’t have skills, as if they don’t have anything to share with others.”
The delegates’ businesses range from textiles, food processing, home décor, clothing and cosmetics. Some export products to other African countries, Europe and the US, and all can be found online.
“It is very important for Africans to become entrepreneurs because by doing that, we actually put ourselves on the map,” Ulreen I. Turay, owner of a home decor business called Mitco Enterprises in Sierra Leone. “We become stakeholders in our country’s development.”
Another delegate, Weko Rispa from Chad, runs Rispa Boutique, an embroidery boutique and a women’s embroidery cooperative. Currently her business employs widows and orphans; in the future she also plans on creating employment opportunities for HIV positive young girls.
All of these women understand the importance of pro-actively impacting their community.
“We can’t leave everything to the government,” Uwizera said. “We are the ones who know what we need, we are the ones who know where we want to go, so entrepreneurship is very important because we are … helping one another.”
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