Northwood hosts female entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Afghanistan

19 women graduate from leadership development program

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

These women are facing incredible challenges, as Rwanda continues its recovery from COVID and Afghanistan is experiencing oppressed women’s rights and unstable government.

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

Each year, about 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 U.S. over the summer to participate in a leadership development program.

In the last 16 years, the IEEW and Northwood University have educated over 1,000 female entrepreneurs, who have in turn created jobs for over 16,000 men and women in their respective businesses.

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

The leadership development program consisted of morning lectures by Northwood professors and other business professionals. The group visited local businesses in the Great Lakes Bay Region in the afternoon to learn about their operations. Additionally, there was time for participants to engage in a business pitch competition; listen to a panel discussion; and meet community leaders over lunches and dinners.

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

No other program has continually educated women in both these countries for as long as Peace Through Business, noted Manizha Wafeq, Afghanistan’s in-country facilitator for IEEW.

During his keynote address at a graduation ceremony held Friday morning, President Kent MacDonald told the group Northwood is committed to developing female entrepreneurs.

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

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

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

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

Northwood University thanks the following for supporting this program in various ways: Midland Morning Rotary Club, Marjorie Hohman, Nancy and Bill Barker, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, and Dr. Barry Brahver.