Northwood hosts international female entrepreneurs

Northwood University celebrated 19 women from Rwanda and Afghanistan this week as part of a partnership to empower female entrepreneurs from the two countries.

These women face incredible challenges as Rwanda continues to recover from COVID and Afghanistan faces suppressed women’s rights and an unstable government.

The group came to Northwood as part of a long-standing partnership with Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW).

Each year, approximately 30 women from each country go through an in-country training program focused on entrepreneurship. The top students from each class are invited to travel to the US over the summer and participate in a leadership development program.


Over the past 16 years, IEEW and Northwood University have trained more than 1,000 female entrepreneurs who have created jobs for more than 16,000 men and women in their companies.

This year, Northwood University hosted 17 Rwandan women and two Afghan women from July 17-24 at Northwood’s main campus.

The leadership development program consisted of morning lectures by Northwood professors and other business experts. In the afternoon, the group visited local businesses in the Great Lakes region to learn about their operations. In addition, participants were given time to participate in a business presentation competition; listen to a panel discussion; and met with community leaders over lunches and dinners.

During Friday’s graduation ceremony, IEEW founder dr. Terry Neese thanked Northwood for its 16-year partnership with the IEEW Peace Through Business program.

No other program has continuously educated women in both countries for as long as Peace Through Business, noted Manizha Wafeq, Afghanistan liaison for IEEW in the country.

During his keynote address at Friday morning’s graduation ceremony, President Kent MacDonald said the Northwood Group is committed to developing female entrepreneurs.

“Northwood remains open to you and these amazing women,” he noted.

To date, 873 business owners have graduated from the Peace Through Business program, including 469 in Afghanistan and 404 in Rwanda.

President MacDonald shared a message of hope with this newest class of graduates.

“There is hope,” he said. “And now there are people like you to go back to your communities and make a difference.”

Elvira Parkinson

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