Five Bpeace Fast Runners were recently accepted for a 2 week training program in entrepreneurial skills and business growth at Project Artemis in Phoenix, Arizona on the campus of Thunderbird School for Global Management. Project Artemis and Bpeace work hand in hand with women in Afghanistan who show potential as business builders. Four Bpeace member/volunteers were on hand last week to see our Fast Runners learn and grow.
There was hardly a dry eye in the crowd, as Bpeace Fast Runner Maryam led the Afghan National Anthem followed by the Star Spangled Banner at the graduation ceremony for the Afghan women in this program. Maryam’s Bpeace Advocate Johnna Hobgood was there, cheering her on with great pride. Johnna has worked closely with Maryam in the Bpeace Race to Innovation, and as a Fast Runner, finally getting to meet her in person.
Maryam owns Bibi Maryam Private High School which currently operates grades 1 through 5 with 112 children. Her vision is to expand this school through grades 12 so that children can complete their high education, and add an Internet café to allow the children as well as all women in the community to have access to the Internet and computer technology. Johnna said: ‘I was so proud of Maryam as she walked across the stage at graduation, and it was an amazing experience to spend the week with her and the other Artemis fellows and mentors. They really are a key to big changes for their country.”
Bpeacer Mojdeh Barros says “I spent four days with the Afghan women and I am overwhelmed by their high energy, bravery, enthusiasm and optimism. Most of these women have a day job and at least one business on the side (why they are in this program), they are very much involved with local politics and community work.”
Donna Fleetwood met her Fast Runner Latifa in person after working with her for a year on her “Kitchen Queen” business, providing solutions for efficient kitchens and wire products for use in hotels, apartment buildings and war damaged homes as Kabul rebuilds. Latifa is working on her product and price list and plans to hire 6 skilled workers in the next 6 months. Donna said: “Being able to spend some personal time with Latifa was life changing…I feel that not only am I an Advocate for her business but now also an Advocate for Afghan women to let everyone know of their open hearts and beautiful spirit.”
Former Bpeace Board Member Athena Katsaros led a full day workshop with the Afghan businesswomen and their mentors to help them put together concrete goals and plans to work on together once the Artemis graduates got back to Afghanistan. “Knowing these smart and courageous women makes me feel hopeful that Afghanistan will see peace and prosperity sooner than we expect. These women are breaking out of the traditional ideas of what’s possible for them. They are creating a different future for their children.”
Topping off the astonishing moments was an evening trip to Rawhide in Phoenix, where Bpeace Fast Runners Maryam and Masooda took up country western line dancing and we believe they may be the first Afghan cowgirls. With headscarves intact, they caught on quickly and added a few moves of their own.
Face to face time with our Fast Runners gave us new ways to connect the dots in their business plans and collaborate on next steps for each of our entrepreneurs. The strength and commitment of these women touched us and they want what we all want: a strong economy, a healthy family, and peace.
Mojdeh says: “Their last words to us as we were saying goodbye was ‘Please don’t forget us, we need you in order for us to be successful, don’t leave us!’ On her way back to Boston, Mojdeh remembered this poem by famous Persian poet Sa’adi:
“All Human beings are in truth akin
All in creation share one origin
When fate allots a member pangs and pains
No ease for other members then remain
If, unperturbed, another’s grief canst scan,
Thou are not worthy of the name of man.”