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Thirteen Afghan Women Graduate from Northwood University Business Course

On Monday, August 4, 13 Afghan women graduated from a four-week business course at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. The course, Peace Through Businesses, is now in its second year of bringing female business owners from Afghanistan to the university for classes and seminars on entrepreneurial concepts and basic business skills. It is hosted in partnership with the Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW), the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council and the U.S. State Department. Ambassador Said T. Jawad delivered a speech at the graduation ceremony.

In his speech, Ambassador Jawad described the dire state of womens rights in Afghanistan over the last 30 years. "In the past three decades, women became prime victims of every tragedy of our recent history," he noted. "They suffered brutality from the Marxist regime, endured factional fightings, and the Taliban effectively imposed gender apartheid on them. During the dark years of Taliban rule, the opportunities for women in education and business were completely curtailed. Women were banned from almost all forms of employment, a move that devastated many widows."

Since the end of the Taliban rule in late 2001, though, many advances have been made. "Today, women constitute 27 percent of our members in Parliament. Women are just as active in Afghanistan’s economic life as they are in her political life. Over 70,000 Afghan women have been able to start small businesses with the help of micro-credit loans," he stated.

For those advances to become permanent, Ambassador Jawad argued, more profound social changes in Afghanistan are needed. "It is crucial to remove all legal impediments to empower women, which we have done. However, I strongly believe that gender equality is practically ensured only through education and economic empowerment of women in any society. Some of the impediments that women are facing in our society are due to culture; culture can not be changed by decrees. It can be changed by education and economic opportunities for women. Peace Through Businesses is doing exactly this," he said.

Ambassador Jawad thanked Northwood University President Keith Pretty, IEEW President Terry Neese, Peace Through Business Chair Betsy DeVos and Northwood University Professor Emeritus Dr. John Amin for their work in organizing the program and hosting the 13 women. He extended particular gratitude and appreciation to the Afghan women, calling them sources of inspiration for the country.

"All of you are shining examples of what Afghanistan is and can become," he said. "In two weeks you will return to Afghanistan as beacons of hope and as sources of inspiration to other women. You will return to a country that faces ongoing struggles, but you will return as leaders in your fields. Congratulations to all of you."

Click here to see a full version of Ambassador Jawad's remarks.

Click here to see a full set of pictures of the ceremony.

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