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Bush Institute Welcomes Women Leaders from the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan for New Program

This week, the George W. Bush Institute will welcome 19 women leaders from the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan for a new leadership training program called WE Lead.

October 10, 2018


19 Scholars to Participate in “WE Lead” Leadership Training

October 10, 2018 – This week, the George W. Bush Institute welcomed its inaugural class of women leaders for WE Lead, the new iteration of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Fellowship. The program convenes 19 women from Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia and seeks to empower and equip them to become more effective leaders and to advance economic opportunity in their communities and countries.

2018-2019 WE Lead scholars include:

  • Riham Adel, of Egypt, is founder and CEO of Job Nile Recruitment, a firm that offers professional recruitment, training, and development services. Through Job Nile, Riham provides free career counseling and entrepreneurial guidance to job seekers and students and organizes large-scale events connecting employers with job seekers.
  • Olfa Arfaoui, of Tunisia, is senior advisor for the Tunisian chapter of the German Society for International Cooperation. She works on projects that promote sustainable economic development to create earning and employment opportunities, including gender equality programs that improve female labor participation and working conditions in the private sector.
  • Nadia Behboodi, of Afghanistan, is CEO of the Afghan Women’s Organization for Research, Learning, and Development. She volunteers with Seeds of Change, a network of professional women and men standing for female leadership at all levels, and manages Afghanistan’s first circle of the Lean In network, which promotes female empowerment.
  • Saoussen Benzarti, of Tunisia, is a tenured faculty member at the Higher School of Agriculture, where she teaches agricultural sciences to engineering students. She conducts research on sustainable agriculture and wastewater treatment and in 2016 was awarded a fellowship at MIT.
  • Hana Elghoul, of Tunisia, is a translator and data research specialist for Google and a Ph.D. student studying philosophy at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. She is a member of the Regional Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, which advocates for women’s increased presence in economic life and equips them with the skills to launch projects and expand their impact.
  • Sarina Faizy, of Afghanistan, is the youngest member of the Kandahar provincial council. A peace and gender equality activist and law student, she coaches women to develop more effective businesses and better job opportunities. Sarina previously worked with the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan as a media relations officer, putting her security on the line to keep the public informed.
  • Esraa Fathy, of Egypt, is the founder Alef wa Noun homemade home accessories, where she employees 45 people, mainly women in rural areas with low levels of education who otherwise would have a difficult time earning an income. Her products are for sale at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo International Airport, and seven other galleries in Cairo.
  • Nadia Zrelli Ben Hamida, of Tunisia, works at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and is also an economics professor at the Institute of Higher Commercial Studies. She is well-known for her research on the school-to-work transition, the unemployment of higher education graduates, and the evaluation of educational systems based on economic growth.
  • Aseel Honein, of Lebanon, is an architect, university instructor, and real estate developer who is working on sustainable projects for economic, environmental, and social prosperity. She is currently developing an ecotourism plan for a district in Northern Lebanon to promote new job opportunities. Aseel also mentors young entrepreneurs on innovation and startups.
  • Besan Jaber, of Jordan, is a senior researcher at the International Rescue Committee. She is currently leading a project to help Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians develop community-driven approaches to problems in their communities.
  • Wafa Kort, of Tunisia, is an assistant professor at the Higher Institute of Management and obtained her doctoral degree in management information systems. She mentors students in entrepreneurship and advocates for better classroom conditions in her country.
  • Nouran Yasser El Marsafy, of Egypt, is a teaching assistant in urban architecture at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, where she provides strategic guidance for student entrepreneurs and expertise in coursework development. Nouran has specialized experience in urban design and research.
  • Shahnaz Nasr, of Afghanistan, is a national coordinator for Financial Inclusion at the Aga Khan Foundation. She promotes participation in Community-Based Savings Groups, which respond directly to the financial service needs of the remote and rural poor by providing a secure, convenient place to save and take small loans on flexible terms.
  • Ruba Rihani, of Jordan, is the founding director of Arab Woman Today, a nonprofit that provides leadership and vocational training to Jordanian woman and Syrian refugees. Lack of childcare prevents many women from earning an income, so developing skills they can utilize from their homes can help to reduce that barrier.
  • Noha Sebaiee, of Egypt, is a field coordinator at Caritas, where she leads 20 caseworkers in education reform and refugee integration efforts. She is passionate about youth empowerment and manages educational workshops that help students gain necessary skills not readily available in Egyptian universities.
  • Farah Abu Shamma, of Jordan, is a project manager at the Economic Justice department of Oxfam, where she works to improve access to sustainable income generation among vulnerable youth and women refugees through skill-building, networking, and addressing barriers.
  • Homa Usmany, of Afghanistan, is executive director of Zardozi, a nonprofit that has worked with 6,000 women in rural Afghanistan, providing guidance on starting small businesses and selling goods at local markets. The first female law graduate of American University of Afghanistan, she seeks to empower women with limited education to raise their income sustainably.
  • Layal Yacoub, of Lebanon, is an attorney who runs her own law firm specializing in international humanitarian law, labor law, access to justice, educational law, and peacebuilding. In her free time, she runs women empowerment workshops focused on job applications and interviewing.
  • Lama Yazbeck, of Lebanon, is executive director of Himaya, an NGO that provides school programming on child abuse, self-protection, and rehabilitation. Lama also coordinates St. Joseph University’s internship program for those studying special education. In previous roles, she has served refugees and people with addictions and special needs.

The Bush Institute’s WE Lead program begins with two weeks in Dallas, where scholars participate in courses focused on leadership development and economic opportunity led by experts Jerry Magar and Marsha Clark as well as SMU Cox School of Business Professors Jay Carson and Robin Pinkley, Wake Forest University Economics Professor James Otteson, Bush Institute Global Initiatives Fellow Amanda Schnetzer, and former Women’s Initiative Fellowship Mentor Kimberly Davis.

In between classes, scholars will hear from a range of inspirational speakers during panel discussions including Jan Langbein of Genesis Women’s Shelter and Roslyn Dawson Thompson of Dallas Women’s Foundation. They will also visit local landmarks including Dealey Plaza, the Dallas Arboretum, Southern Methodist University, Akola Project, Trinity Groves, the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, and AT&T Stadium for a Dallas Cowboys game.

After Dallas, scholars return home to employ their newly-acquired skills, participate in online discussions, and implement their Personal Leadership Projects. Prior to the program’s completion in Dallas in March, scholars will participate in targeted trainings on economic opportunity, conducted in partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).

“At the Bush Institute, we believe women are essential to the development of open, peaceful, and prosperous societies,” said Farhat Popal, who manages the WE Lead program. “We are proud that WE Lead will build upon President and Mrs. Bush's commitment to women's inclusion and leadership in the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan.”