© Photo Provided Terry Neese
It’s impossible to watch the news from Afghanistan and not feel heartbroken. All of those dreams for an open and democratic society, and all of the progress made toward education and empowerment of women, shattered in a matter of days.
But I am not hopeless. Let me explain why.
For the past 15 years, I’ve watched female entrepreneurs from Afghanistan create successful businesses while their fathers, husbands and brothers went off to war. I’m thinking of a botanist who started her own agricultural company in Kabul and a promising young writer and filmmaker dedicated to telling stories with strong, female characters.
These are just two of the 597 women from Afghanistan who have participated in The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women’s (IEEW’s) PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® program. The program provides in-country business training for entrepreneurs, hosts a U.S.-based leadership development experience, and pairs businesswomen from Afghanistan with volunteer mentors from the U.S. The goal is to build the capacity of Afghan female business owners and give them the skills and training needed to successfully run their businesses, employ other Afghan women, and contribute to a stable Afghan economy and society.
It has been the privilege of a lifetime to witness Afghan women enjoy rights and opportunities that most of us take for granted. Many of these women, armed with only a cellphone and a social media account, were able to start businesses, make money and become global citizens.
This is democracy building at its best, woman by woman, small business by small business. And this is exactly what the Taliban could erase. We must not let them.
IEEW is committed to continuing our efforts to support Afghan female business owners as they navigate their new reality. Here are some ways you can help:
Most economists agree the future of the developing world depends on whether or not girls and women are educated and empowered. The future is female, they say. I believe to my core this is true. I also believe for Afghan women, the future is right now. Please help them as you can.
Terry Neese is the founder of IEEW based in Oklahoma City.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Want a low-cost, non-partisan, successful way to help Afghanistan? Invest in women