A GUEST POST BY STEPHENIE FOSTER -- Recently, I travelled to Accra, Ghana to participate as a speaker and trainer in a two-day economic summit, co-sponsored by Vital Voices, the Eagle Women’s Empowerment Club (EWEC), a club of 450 Ghanaian women who own small and medium-sized businesses, and the Exxon Mobil Foundation.
The goal of the summit was to bring Ghanaian women business owners together to share best business practices, learn business skills, network, strategize about how to harness the full potential of women-owned businesses and address barriers to women’s full participation in the economy. There were workshops on marketing and branding, getting your products ready for export, using technology to expand your business and corporate governance, as well as panel discussions on how to break through cultural barriers and how to advocate on key economic issues, including the high interest rates prevalent in Ghana.
EWEC is part of the Africa Businesswomen's Network (ABWN), a partnership between local businesswomen's organizations throughout Africa, Vital Voices and ExxonMobil Foundation. The goal of the ABWN is to build and support a network of businesswomen’s organizations in Africa in order to expand the number of women succeeding as entrepreneurs and leaders in the corporate world; to raise the profile and credibility of women in business; to foster global networking opportunities among businesswomen; and to advocate for policies that expand economic opportunity for women.
The Summit took major steps to meet those goals. It was organized by Juliet Asante, alum of a Vital Voices’ program sponsored with Fortune and the US State Department, bringing emerging women leaders to the United States. Juliet’s mentor was Pat Mitchell, now CEO of the Paley Center for Media in New York, another one of the international participants. Other international participants were Laurie Fitz-Pegado, a former Clinton Administration trade official and Fiona Eberts, who has worked with women in Ghana for many years.
I was so impressed with the determination and creativity of the Ghanaian women I met, and their dedication to making positive change to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. I so look forward to their accomplishment in the months and years to come.
Stephenie Foster is currently Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at the American Legacy Foundation. She has more than 25 years' experience as an advocate for a wide range of issues relating to women, serving in senior positions on Capitol Hill as well as the executive branch, the non-profit sector, political campaigns and private law practice.