Northwood welcomes international female entrepreneurs

Northwood University this week celebrated 19 women from Rwanda and Afghanistan as part of a partnership to empower women entrepreneurs in these two countries.

These women face incredible challenges, as Rwanda continues its post-COVID recovery and Afghanistan experiences oppressed women’s rights and an unstable government.

The group came to Northwood as part of a long-standing partnership with the Women’s Economic Empowerment Institute (IEEW).

Each year, approximately 30 women from each country attend an in-country training program focused on entrepreneurship. Top students from each class are invited to travel to the United States over the summer to participate in a leadership development program.


Over the past 16 years, IEEW and Northwood University have trained over 1,000 women entrepreneurs, who have in turn created jobs for over 16,000 men and women in their respective businesses.

This year, Northwood University hosted 17 Rwandan women and two Afghan women from July 17-24 at Northwood’s main campus.

The leadership development program consisted of morning lectures given by Northwood professors and other business professionals. The group visited local businesses in the Great Lakes Bay area in the afternoon to learn more about their operations. In addition, participants had time to participate in a business presentation contest; listen to a panel discussion; and meet community leaders at lunches and dinners.

At a graduation ceremony on Friday, IEEW founder Dr. Terry Neese thanked Northwood for his 16-year partnership with IEEW’s Peace Through Business program.

No other program has continuously educated women in these two countries for as long as Peace Through Business, noted IEEW Afghan facilitator Manizha Wafeq.

During his commencement speech at a graduation ceremony on Friday morning, President Kent MacDonald said the Northwood Group is committed to developing women entrepreneurs.

“Northwood remains open to you and these amazing women,” he noted.

To date, 873 business leaders have graduated from Peace Through Business, including 469 in Afghanistan and 404 in Rwanda.

President MacDonald shared a message of hope with this new class of graduates.

“There is hope,” he said. “And now there are people like you to go back to your communities and make a difference.”

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