The U.S. Department of State’s African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) partnered with WorldChicago to showcase products handcrafted by women from Sub-Saharan and North Africa on Friday, September 9 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Gourmet foods, skincare, home décor, and fashion merchandise including leather goods, jewelry, handbags, and designer clothes were among the items featured. Chicago retailers and the public had the opportunity to interact one-on-one with the dynamic businesswomen selected by the State Department for their leadership skills, while also learning more about African culture.
On Thursday, September 8, the women attended a seminar on marketing, media, public relations and community outreach at the Hotel Sofitel, organized by Laurie Glenn of ThinkInc., and featuring Chicago area entrepreneurs and businesswomen. Participating panelist were Patricia Andrews-Keenan, founder & president, The Tallulah Group; Leslie Fox, executive vice president & general manager, Res Publica Group; Shelley Rosen, founder & CEO, Luxe Blooms; Anne-Marie St. Germaine, partner & managing director, Resolute Consulting; and Ana Vargas, managing director, communications, Teach for America.
“These women are amazing leaders who are seeking to make meaningful change in their countries with the enterprises they run,” said Andrews-Keenan who spoke to them about leveraging media, social media and community outreach to grow their businesses.
Launched by the State Department in 2010, AWEP introduces African women to new economic tools and creates viable opportunities that can accelerate the growth of their businesses. The program also identifies and builds networks of women entrepreneurs across Africa poised to transform their societies by owning, running and operating businesses, and by becoming voices for social advocacy in their communities. Since 2010, it has brought more than 200 women to the U.S., and approximately 140 to Chicago.
“We are proud to be part of this innovative program which aims to alleviate the huge disparity in gender income one step at-a-time,” said Peggy Parfenoff, President, WorldChicago. “By hosting 37 African women entrepreneurs in our backyard, we can help them forge relationships with Chicago business leaders and our community, and ultimately become a driving force in the long-term success of these women’s businesses, increasing economic activity here and in their home countries.”
Supporting economic growth in Sub-Saharan and North Africa is a policy priority for the United States. The AWEP initiative further advances the Secretary’s Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality through economic and civic participation throughout the continent of Africa. For more information on AEWP sponsored by The State Department, please visit http://www.state.gov/p/af/rt/awep.
WorldChicago facilitates professional and personal interactions for international leaders during official visits to Chicago through U.S. Department of State sponsored exchange programs; enhances respect and communication through international exchanges and alliances; and promotes the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois as important centers of business and culture.
For more information about WorldChicago and how you can get involved, visit www.worldchicago.org.