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Project Artemis: Producing Peace and Prosperity Through Business Education

February 14, 2013 5 minute Read by Sara Van Wie

The Bush Institute’s Afghan Women’s Project spotlights the struggles and successes of Afghan women by telling their personal stories, publishing briefings and reports, and highlighting beneficial projects.

Founded in 2005, Thunderbird for Good seeks to prove that business and education are powerful tools for building peace and prosperity, even in the most challenging business environments.  Since 2005, Thunderbird’s Project Artemis has hosted 74 Afghan businesswomen for two-week intensive business training at their Glendale, Arizona campus.

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining 11 Afghan businesswomen for their second week of classes at the Thunderbird School of Management.  The two-week course featured business courses taught by leading Thunderbird faculty, site visits to small, medium and large businesses, and mentorship by successful businesswomen from North America and Europe. 

Many of the Project Artemis students have owned business for several years, but have never received any formal business training.  Classes in business plan development, human resource management, bookkeeping, accounting, marketing and negotiations equip Project Artemis participants with practical skills to strengthen and grow their businesses.  Simultaneous translation between English and Dari allows students to participate in near “realtime” with their professors and mentors.  The final two days of classes are spent together with mentors who help them brainstorm solutions to immediate challenges, and create a week-by-week strategic plan and detailed financial goals.  Many students remarked that their instructors and mentors instilled in them a belief that they can lead, work and grow successfully and with excellence!

My experience at Thunderbird reinforced my belief that the women of Afghanistan will not easily give up the rights and opportunities that they have gained in the past decade.  As I observed them in classes and site visits, spoke with them about their businesses, academic pursuits and families, I was impressed with their tenacity, creativity and courage to build businesses that provide benefit and income to their families and communities. 

Miri* (name changed) runs a medium-sized agribusiness in Heart province, which produces dried fruit, jams and saffron.  Miri started her business when the Taliban controlled her hometown.  At first, her family and community accused her of being a prostitute because her work required her to walk outside.  For several years, Miri took her husband with her everywhere to assuage community perception.  When I asked how and when things changed for her, she replied, “Once I started making money and hiring people in my community, their opinions of me changed.”  Miri’s perseverance and courage now allows her to employ more than 40 women in several communities.

Reflecting at her experience at Project Artemis, one student commented, “We have a saying in our country that, when translated, goes like this, ‘I was a coal beneath the ashes.  You came and fanned me, and now I am a blazing fire.’” 

It is no wonder that, since 2005, the 63 previous Project Artemis graduates have created 2,000 jobs in Afghanistan and trained more than 15,000 men and women in business management, marketing and leadership.  Thunderbird has created a practical toolkit for Afghan female entrepreneurs that, together with strategic personal support from mentors and the Thunderbird network, will enable women to lead more effectively, grow businesses more quickly, and contribute more immediately to their nation’s future.

Today we expose to the world that Afghan women can do business, can travel alone, can walk beside everyone else and raise their voices.  We show that we are brave, we are clever, we can have our own choices, we can reach our own wishes in our lifetime . . . This training has grown our capabilities and made us recognize who we really are.

- 2013 Project Artemis graduate

Please also see a recent Voice of America article on Project Artemis.

This post was written by Sara Van Wie, Research Associate for the Afghan Women’s Project with the Women’s Initiative.

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