“It was amazing,” posted a 2012 TechWomen Emerging Leader on a photograph of her on Facebook where she was reflecting on the ideas shared by other participants at the six-day Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) Training of Trainers (TOT) in Tunisia.
The 2012 Tunisian TechWomen alumnae participated in a training that started with a three-day Innovative Leadership TOT led by Barbara Fittipaldi from Center for New Futures. Participants gained skills to support women in their communities and develop as leaders, entrepreneurs, and managers in a climate of rapid change. On day four, trainer Beth Kanter and co-trainer Stephanie Rudat facilitated a workshop, Becoming a Networked NGO: Using Social Media Effectively, which exposed participants to concepts around transparency, openness and what it means to be a networked NGO.
WES is an entrepreneurship and business capacity building program developed in response to the U.S. State Department’s Office of Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)’s Tunisia: Supporting a Democratic Transition Annual Program Statement. The program provides training on business sustainability for women’s organizations and entrepreneurship for individual women in Tunisia.
The Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) program undertakes a two-pronged approach and provides targeted training in the areas of leadership, entrepreneurship, and social media to both local Tunisian organizations that operate WES centers and individual Tunisian women entrepreneurs who launch, build and grow their businesses.
When 27-year-old Noha Abousonna returned home from the TechWomen program, her start-up quickly took notice of her newly developed skills and provided her with additional responsibilities. “My company understood that I now have connections with investors. I have promoted my company well. They know I could more.”
Months earlier, Noha applied to the TechWomen program as an entrepreneur who understood the importance of expressed cultural connectivity. Her plan was to record and take notes of her experiences and make them available for everyone to read through social media. But she was shy, reluctant and fearful. “Before I came to TechWomen I had stage phobia,” said Noha. “I couldn’t do a presentation in front of small groups of people or a large audience.”
In January 2009, prior to joining the TechWomen program, Noha developed a desire to build her own company. She craved an innovative space where she would have the freedom to turn her dream application ideas into reality. It was her appetite for innovation that helped her begin the journey that led her to the TechWomen program. At the time, she had secure employment. However, her drive to produce something new was stronger than her desire to fit in with the norm, so she left behind the known for the unknown and went to start her own company. “Everyone around me called me crazy and unrealistic to think about leaving my job,” she wrote in her TechWomen application. But Noha imagined being part of building and enabling an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Egypt.
Thekra, a 2011 TechWomen Mentee, at the 4th of July Parade in Washington, DC.
“I had always thought about doing something for underserved girls in the world,” Thekra explains. She had an idea to start an NGO, Edugirl. “Most NGOs focus on university-aged students,” Thekra says, “I want to focus on girls in neglected areas who get married early, who are isolated and who don’t have anyone who is fighting for them.” Thekra had this idea, this dream, but she had never shared it with anyone until she attended Barbara Fittapaldi’s workshop on Breakthrough Leadership in the first week of her TechWomen mentorship. Continue reading →