At the end of January, Stephen DeAngelis at the Enterprise Resilience Management Blog wrote about the perserverence of schoolgirls in Afghanistan, and Afghan women in general. Despite the current troubles in Afghanistan and the difficult path forward in creating an environment for stability and integration with the world economy and its underlying institutions, Afghan women remain incredibly resilient in the face of adversities many of us can little imagine.
There are a couple key pieces to Stephen's post that I want to highlight. The first one is this:
"If Afghanistan is ever going to achieve peace and prosperity, it will need the talents and efforts of every one of its citizens. Ignoring the potential of half its people--the women--is not in the country's best interests."
The second one is this:
"Hopes and dreams--even distant ones--are enough to motivate people. Any activity that supports hope and reduces fear is worth supporting. Standing for something rather than opposing something is always a better course to pursue."
The main topic of this post, Project Artemis, is one of those important activities that "supports hope and reduces fear." It is a well recognized program was initiated by former U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Barbara Barrett (wife of Intel CEO Craig Barrett), and managed by my alma mater, Thunderbird, School of Global Management. The program was most recently highlighted at Davos. A description is below (highlights mine):
"Project Artemis – Afghanistan is a unique business-skills training program that aims to build the entrepreneurial skills of promising Afghan businesswomen. Thirty women from Afghanistan have participated in the two sessions of Project Artemis, held in 2005 and 2006.
"Included in the project are two weeks of business and entrepreneurial decision-making training; mentorship by women entrepreneurs; site visits to U.S. businesses; and follow up support and business coaching online."
This connectivity building is extremely important--it creates the lifelines through which hope can be pumped into Afghan society. Going back to the motto "borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers," Thunderbird is uniquely positioned to generate the trade of know-how and experience in establishing such connectivity:
"Thunderbird is uniquely positioned to provide the type of training that has made Project Artemis successful. As the world’s top-ranked international business school, Thunderbird has the knowledge, the capacity, and the global network to provide business training in even the world’s most challenging environments. In keeping with our mission, to educate global leaders who create sustainable prosperity worldwide, programs like Project Artemis prove that business and education can be powerful tools for building peace and prosperity."
As notion this is great, but the program has already made a significant and tangible impact. Below, this success is described as a multiplier effect, but could also be described as the Medici Effect:
The Multiplier Effect--How One Experience Touches Many
Project Artemis helps educate the best and brightest of women. Fellows move forward with their individual accomplishments that make, not only a personal economic impact, but a contribution to the greater society, spurring other women to build businesses, and to learn English and business and computer skills. The impact of Project Artemis also spreads to a greater Afghan community: Business education leads to the establishment of stronger businesses, and strong businesses lead to economic growth, prosperity and peace.
Courageous Afghan women such as these fellows can make an impact in their country if they are given the tools to succeed:
- Rangina employs over 500 home bound women in Kandahar in her embroidery business
- Kamela employs several hundred Afghans in her construction business and has taught hundreds more in her business planning consultancy
- Katrin has made over 10,000 microloans to Afghan families
- Roshan has 32 different training programs for youth and women throughout Afghanistan
- Zarghona operates a school for young women in Ghazni Province, giving them exposure to math, science, and language
- Habiba’s school for young children will give them a start to education and will enable their parents to work during the day
- Doctors Wahida, Arefa, and Safeia are dedicated to women’s health and have treated many women who struggle to get their needs met
- Nargis provides Afghan women with a safe place to exercise and focus on their health
- Zainul, through her bee-keeping business, has taught other women how to start their own bee keeping businesses and to sell honey
- Aziza, through her growing leather goods company, employs many Afghans. Her workers produced over 10,000 soccer balls last year.
- Fatima is using her own success as a shop owner in her Bamiyan bazaar to find funding for a new women’s-only bazaar that would give other women the same opportunity for economic independence
By extension, the tremendous work and effort these women are engaging in will positively impact the schoolgirls that Stephen mentions, in addition to the overall strength and health of their communities. Those stronger communities will provide the overall Afghan economy and government with a more solid foundation upon which to build a "future worth creating" for Afghanistan.
Lastly, when thinking of the supply chains of the future in Afghanistan, there is no doubt that programs like Project Artemis will be critical to providing a higher quality workforce from which more and more supply chain links are built with developed economies, and thus leading to a higher sophistication in the management and operation of all supply chain architectures.