WES Sustainability & Networking Conference

WES entrepreneurs showcase their products and share business ideas with WES staff and partners at an entrepreneurs marketplace.

Last month, the Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) program brought together representatives from each of the eight WES partner organizations and 24 women entrepreneurs for a two-day conference in Hammamet, Tunisia. The goal of the conference was to exchange best practices and lessons learned; showcase and celebrate WES achievements; and plan for the sustainability of WES centers and entrepreneurs’ network. We were very honored to be joined by distinguished guests from the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and Microsoft, as well as a panel of experts on entrepreneurship in Tunisia.

In opening remarks by U.S. Chargé Kathleen Hanson, she highlighted that WES is a model of U.S. and Tunisian partnership for expanding economic opportunities.

WES Country Director Chéma Gargouri shared program accomplishments after two years of programming including that, as a result of WES, 150 women have started or expanded businesses, while over 600 Tunisian women have developed business plans and are well positioned to launch new businesses once a new microfinance law is passed.

An excellent panel discussion on supporting women entrepreneurs in Tunisia was led by Leila Belkhiria Jaber, Vice-President, National Women Chamber of Commerce (CNFCE); Fares Mabrouk, Tunisia Country Director, Yunus Social Business; Dr. Soukaina Bouraoui, Executive Director, Center on Arab Women Research (CAWTAR); and Tahar Ben Lakhdar, Chairman of the Board and CEO Esprit -Ecole Supérieur Privée d’Ingénierie et de Technologie.

During a highly interactive World Café activity, participants on how to better support women entrepreneurs including to establish a WES Boutique to display and sell entrepreneurs’ products, expand partnerships with the private sector, encourage mentorship opportunities and develop nation-wide WES brand awareness.

A highlight of the conference was the entrepreneurs marketplace where WES Business Award winners displayed (and sold) their products and services and presented their business ideas to WES staff and partners. For example, Mouna Bouchaala presented her idea to develop green housing for college students in Sfax and Mouna Werchefani, an electromechanical engineer, shared her business ideas on rehabilitative robotics (she is creating a robotic finger that you can use on a keyboard using a sensor activated by head movement).

Participants left energized and even more committed to the work we are doing through WES to support women entrepreneurs in Tunisia.

Chema Gargouri, WES Tunisia Country Director meets the Partner NGOs

Yesterday was the first day of the WES Entrepreneurship Training.
October 15th – 19th, WES partner NGOs will be participating in TOT workshops on Home Based Business, E-Commerce and Entrepreneurship.

These intensive workshops will be delivered by expert trainers Rym Baouendi and Widad Al Hanafi.

The afternoon before the training started, WES Tunisia Country Director, Chema Gargouri. led a roundtable discussion on the WES program. During this session, WES partners discussed the following points:

  • Challenges they faced in the development of their Business Plans
  • Program monitoring and evaluation
  • The WES Network and upcoming trainings

The roundtable was attended by WES Trainers and NGO Board members.  These discussions helped the participants gain a better understanding of the program and outline next steps.

Celia Boren joins the WES team!

Celia Boren

Celia Boren

WES team is excited to welcome our new team member, Celia Boren.

It’s great to have an entrepreneur on the team! Here is what Celia has to say about herself and her interest in the WES program.

To the WES Network,

I am thrilled to be joining your team as the WES Program Officer at IIE’s West Coast Center! I have been a part of the IIE family in San Francisco since 2008 and most recently I spent a year living and working in Rwanda. While in Rwanda, I was working with young women and girls on health education and financial literacy. Working with young girls on financial education and plans to save for their future really sparked my interest in entrepreneurship, and I even spent some time as an entrepreneur myself launching and managing a food/ catering business. I look forward to bringing this experience to WES to support trainings, your business endeavors, and also learn from you as you scale your ideas.
I can’t wait to work with you soon in Tunisia!

Best Wishes for Heather Murphy!

Heather Murphy

Heather Murphy

Heather Murphy, senior program officer for Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) is leaving IIE to pursue a graduate program at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Heather, we always knew that you were a rock star!

The WES team has put together the following post to say goodbye and wish Heather great success in her future pursuits.

Chéma Gargouri – Country Director, Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) – Tunisia

I was asked to write a paragraph about Heather Murphy. Well, let me first say that she is younger and taller than me. When we took pictures together she had to sit on a chair so I do not look funny! Isn’t that romantic? Yes it is!

I love this young lady: she is intelligent, professional and above all very calm. Despite all these differences physically and in personality as well, this did not prevent us from establishing a very nice and friendly business relationship that I want to keep after her departure from IIE. We went through many challenging moments but at the end of the day everything seems to be easy when working with her.

What I do appreciate, among many other things, is that she is a good listener and is very respectful and sensitive to our culture. I do believe, and I am confident, that she will have a good career because she is a woman of substance. Chokran…in Tunisian Arabic: Aychik Heather… and good luck to you.

Ahmed Hamza, Training Coordinator, Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) – Tunisia

Knowing that Heather Murphy will be leaving us to pursue her Conflict Resolution studies,I realized that I have so many things I want to write and wish for her. But since this will be a blog post, I believe it should be short in order for it to be Search Engines Friendly: D

Well, I had the chance to meet Heather twice: in Tunisia and Morocco. She was always smiling, professional and spreading positive energy everywhere around her. I really enjoyed working with Heather, and will be missing her after her departure from IIE.

Since I know you will be reading this, I will directly talk to you and say:

Thank you Heather, “I wish you all the best, hope that we will always keep in touch, and we will miss you!”

Madhavi Bhasin, Program Associate, Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) – San Francisco

I had the opportunity to work with Heather Murphy on E-Mediat, and WES and it’s been a great learning opportunity. She is a great manager, inspiring team leader and best co-worker. She makes every task or project seem effortless. I’ve never seen her stress out; not even in the most demanding situations.

Since the day I joined IIE, I’ve approached Heather with questions and concerns and she has addressed them all with a smile on her face. I’ve walked into her office with tons of issues and she has amazed me with instance solutions. She has been a professional mentor and dear friend.

Heather, thanks for making my first year at IIE a special one! Good luck for future adventures.