I am in NY, with Business Women from Afghanistan… and if they can make it there they can make it anywhere…
2 and a half years ago as I was thinking about ways to help women in Afghanistan through an organization I work with and I had an idea. The organization is Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) and I do work through them in Afghanistan- you can read more about them on their website http://bpeace.com/. Their basic belief is "more jobs mean less violence".
The idea was for an apprenticeship for Afghan Women businesses to partner with like industry American businesses to increase cultural awareness and industry knowledge, and this idea I believe was divinely inspired, and now it has come to full fruition. The State department got behind this idea and gave BPeace a grant to recruit, train and bring the business associates here, the program has been going on for a year and a half and this is the first week of the apprenticeship. Businesses also got behind the idea and paid some money to help sponsor the associates coming to the US.
This program was designed by BPeace and we selected twelve Afghan Businesswomen who are currently successful business owners within Afghanistan and we partnered with businesses in their various fields including,
furniture manufacturing, food processing, leather goods manufacturing, radio broadcasting, printing, beekeeping and there is even an Oil Woman (Fuel distribution). Together they employ hundreds of women and impact thousands of individuals.
I have been in New York since last Wednesday with my assistant Melissa ( pictured above) who spent 2.5 years in Afghanistan and she is able to use all of her well earned Dari language skills. Our new friends are so impressed with her and I am too. Our translator says she is the only one of 2 people he has ever met that is American and speaks such good Dari.
And of course I keep hearing the words, "you look Afghan", which has endeared me even more to them. My Salaam Allakoum (greeting), is the same in Arabic and Dari so they all think I must speak Dari too, I know a little but our translator and Melissa are keeping busy. All of the women are required to have some conversational English to be allowed to be part of the program, but that is relative.
So far we have discovered, bagels, revolving doors, The Empire State building, Skype to call home, double decker busses, minutes on cellphones don't last long enough to speak to all of the children, (most Afghan women have between 8-10 children), The Statue of Liberty and they all asked to visit Ground Zero and we went to the St. Paul Memorial, it was quite emotional as they know that is the primary reason they are here and able to even run their businesses. They also learned how to use a gift card. Many retailers donated gift cards for them to be able to shop while in the US. We learned what $150.00 US will buy from the Dress Barn.
The program ends on Oct 27th with a huge Party of course, with the State Department, the US Ambadassor to Afghanistan, the host companies and other VIP's.
Keep watching my blog and in a couple of days and I will post photos of the Business Associates in NY as well as some on their apprenticeships.