The International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development (ICAWED) is a pioneering institution dedicated to advancing the role of women in Afghanistan’s economy.
The center functions as a headquarters to incubate female-led small and medium-sized businesses, provide business training to female entrepreneurs, funnel investment capital to promising women-run businesses, and provide women access to all the business and information technology (IT) assets at the American University of Afghanistan.
As a permanent, state-of-the-art facility dedicated to women’s economic empowerment, the center functions as a national hub coordinating and connecting both public and private sector entities that share the goal of fully integrating women into the Afghan economy.
The goal of stimulating Afghanistan’s economy by tapping into the energy and ingenuity of the nation’s women has captured international interest. The number of development sector initiatives to further this goal has been significant over the last decade, but many organizations are considering scaling down or halting their activities as Afghanistan faces an uncertain security environment in the coming years. The permanence of our center and its affiliate, the American University of Afghanistan, stand in marked contrast.
The International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development is the centerpiece of the American University’s new 80-acre campus. With AUAF’s strong undergraduate business program and post-graduate MBA program, the university and the women’s center will be mutually supportive, with both institutions planning on growing their capabilities in the years to come.
One of the greatest strengths of the International Women’s Center is our 5,400 square meter, two-story facility located on the American University’s new campus. The attention to detail and quality of construction not only stands as a clear message about our long-term commitment to women’s economic empowerment, but also our dedication to providing all of the physical space and technological resources to accomplish our goals.
Visitors to the center are often amazed by the 200 seat auditorium, 12 classrooms, two computer labs, open layout business incubator space, eight seminar rooms, fitness center, daycare, library, break-rooms, 11 offices, two conference rooms, radio station, women’s prayer room, art gallery, and gardens. Funded through a $5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, we envision the center pursuing its mission with distinction for decades to come.
The International Women’s Center is focused on two primary missions; furthering education and research that support female-led businesses, and advocating for policies that further women’s integration into the Afghan economy.
In pursuit of the first of these missions, the center will serve as a national hub that fosters a learning environment for Afghanistan’s future female business leaders. Aspiring businesswomen will have opportunities to receive business training, network with other businesswomen, investors, and consultants, along with gaining access to the American University’s extensive academic and IT resources.
In terms of advocacy, the center will serve as a coordinating body for various Afghan women’s groups, civil society organizations, and NGOs, in order to promote women’s economic integration and solicit international support to this end.
We have a range of international NGOs working in Afghanistan on women’s economic empowerment. That being said, for most of them there’s always an uncertainty about issues like funding and whether they will be staying or leaving after 2014. The permanence of our state-of-the-art center stands in marked contrast. No other facility exists like this in the entire country. We want to send a clear message; we’re not going anywhere.
- Nilofar Sakhi, ICAWED Executive Director