by Gilda Bonanno http://www.gildabonanno.com/
A few weeks ago, I met a businesswoman who provides training and support to companies in topics ranging from accounting to leadership. That's not unusual - except that she is from Afghanistan and that is where she lives and works.
Her visit to the U.S. was arranged by Business Council for Peace, which is a partner of UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women. She was here to learn how to be more effective at marketing and running a business. Then she would take that knowledge back home to Afghanistan and share it with the colleagues at her company.
We had a great conversation, which touched on everything from politics to entrepreneurship to family life.
She is the first woman in her extended family to work outside the home and some of her relatives were skeptical and resistant. But she persisted, with the support and understanding of her husband and her father.
As she describes it, working outside the home allowed her to broaden her thinking and contribute to the family economy, enabling her and her husband to buy land and build a home. She obviously set a positive example, because now a few years later, more than 20 women in her extended family work outside the home. And her young son considers it "normal" to have a mother who works.
When she moved to the new neighborhood where they were building a home, the neighbors began to notice that she left in the morning to go to work and did not return until evening. So one day after prayers at the mosque, she gathered all the neighborhood women, introduced herself and explained her business. She gave out business cards and answered questions about what it was like to work and how her company could help them.
It's an inspiring example of how educating and empowering one person can have a positive ripple effect throughout an entire community. I wish her and her colleagues success – and safety - in their business endeavors and in life.
For a related post, see my October 23, 2008 Entrepreneurial Women in Afghanistan
Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com