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Peace Through Business program brings Afghan and Rwandan businesswomen to Oklahoma City

In July, as part of the Peace through Business program, Lori Tyler, owner of Stella’s restaurant located in Midtown Oklahoma City, will be mentoring Josephine Uwineza, the owner of Flamingo Restaurant in Rwanda. Photo provided by IEEW.

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) is a six-year-old non-profit, started by Oklahoma City entrepreneur, Dr. Terry Neese. In 2006, IEEW was asked by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council to create the Peace through Business program, which provides business education and mentorships for women business owners in developing war-torn countries.

Each year, the Peace through Business program provides training to 60 women in both Afghanistan and Rwanda, to help them develop their own businesses. In July, half of the students will travel to the United States, where Oklahoma City and Dallas will be hosting students during their higher-level business and leadership training.

The Business Boot Camp, held at Northwood University in Cedar Hill, Texas, opens the program schedule from July 9-13.

And from July 14-20, the mentorship program will pair students with local women business owners in their field for a week to get hands on work/personal life interaction.

There are five to eight students coming to Oklahoma City,” said Neese. “A total of 29 women will be at Northwood University for about 10 days before they go to their mentors. Dr. Susan Chambers is mentoring an OB/GYN from Afghanistan.”

“I’ll be hosting Dr. Lida Shams, who is an OB/GYN like myself. She also specializes in ultrasound,” said Chambers. “I hosted another physician from Afghanistan last year. I am so impressed with their commitment to making their family, community and country a better place. IEEW/Peace through Business invests in people and that is what will make a long lasting and sustainable difference in those countries. That, ultimately, makes the whole world a better place.”

“They’re just wonderful women,” said Neese. “The Afghan women are brave, courageous and determined. Most of the men in Rwanda were killed in the genocide, so it’s really up to the Rwanda women now to rebuild that country.”

“Bertha Kabuto, the Peace through Business Alumni Association president who graduated from our program in 2008, is coming from Rwanda,” said Neese. “There are about 250 alumni from both countries. They try to do business with each other, network, learn from each other, hold classes, do workshops; the association is taking on a life of its own.”

Frequent mentor Jan Hill, is an IEEW board member, owner of Eden Salon and Spa, and the founder and organizer of the “Cowboy and Couture” fashion show on July 17. Working with three students who are designers, Hill is arranging for their designs to be featured in a segment of the show. Some fashions are available to purchase through the Peace through Business Collection.

Designers Teta Isibo, Inzuki Designs; Amani Kalisa, Amani K. Fashion Creations; and Colombe Ndutibe, INCO are from Rwanda.

Hill said, “Lori Tyler, owner of Stella’s, an Italian restaurant located in Midtown Oklahoma City, has put together a fabulous mentorship for Josephine “Fina” Uwineza, the owner of Flamingo Restaurant in Rwanda.”

“I am very excited about the opportunity to spend time with Ms. Uwineza,” said Tyler. “We are still in the preliminary stages of planning her itinerary. She will be spending a day at Stella with me, a day or two with Sheree Holloway, owner of Boulevard Steakhouse/Café 501, and a day with Cally Johnson, chef/owner of Big Truck Taco & Mutt’s Amazing Hot Dogs.”

“This is my first year to be involved with IEEW and I saw it as an opportunity to give back,” said Tyler. “But I know that it will be me and the other women in OKC that have agreed to be mentors that will be receiving so much from the experience of spending time with a woman in our professional field that faces so many more challenges than we do.”

“When they get through with their mentorship here, we fly all 29 woman to Washington DC, where the United Institute of Peace is hosting our International Women’s Economic Summit,” said Neese. “We have a truly inspiring lineup of speakers and distinguished guests who embody IEEW’s mission of empowering women economically, socially, and politically.”

On July 23 and 24, “Beyond 20/20 NVision Success” will feature speakers that include: Katie Harbath, associate policy manager at Facebook; Dr. Kathleen Kuehnast, director of the Gender & Peace Building Center at USIP.

Also, Dr. Kevin Fegan, provost of Northwood University-Cedar Hill Campus; Susan Wilson Solovic, award-winning entrepreneur, bestselling author, small business expert, and president and CEO of It’; Anita Dunn, former White House communications director; The Honorable Eklil Hakimi, Afghan ambassador; and The Honorable James Kimonyo, Rwandan ambassador.

The Graduation Gala, the finale to the Leadership Development program, will close the Summit on Tuesday evening, July 24.

The third program component is called Pay it Forward. For one year, students from Afghanistan and Rwanda will teach a course to the next class of IEEW graduates within their home country, while mentoring other business owners in their communities.

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