By Eskedar Kifle
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -Ã‚Â The Alliance of Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), Ethiopian Chapter was officially launched on March 12,Ã‚Â with a ceremony held at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
The Chapter, which has a vision of empowering women entrepreneurs and helping them connect to the international market, currently has around 50 members.
Although officially launched this week in Ethiopia, AWEP has been in existence since 2006, informally known as the Women Entrepreneurs Group (WEG).
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The former US ambassador to Ethiopia, Vicki Huddleston invited most of the founding members of WEG for morning coffee at the American Embassy to discuss how we can help to empower women in our community and create a voice. After several meetings, which continued during the tenure of former Ambassador Donald Yamamato and now with the current Ambassador Donald Booth, WEG was formalized and registered back in December 2010,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Hikmet Abdella, Member of AWEP.
Other countries such as Zambia, Ghana, Liberia, Cote DÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Ivoire as well as Rwanda have registered their own AWEP chapters.
Speaking at the event was Nigist Haile, AWEP Ambassador to Ethiopia, who stated that the launch of the chapter shows the great success women are registering. Ã¢â‚¬Å“This month, we celebrated the International WomenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Day with the establishment of Enat Bank, a bank that has shares mostly owned by women. That is a great celebration for us and this makes everything even grander,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said.
The fact that this year the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) forum will be hosted by Ethiopia in June 2013 is one success story that was appreciated. The AGOA forum will have four different parallel forums; Ministerial Forum, Private Sector Forum, AWEP Forum and Civil Society Forum.
The AWEP Ethiopia chapter is connected with the different AWEP chapters in other countries and the concerned AWEP coordinators at the State Department in the US. The US Ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Booth, who spoke at the launching ceremony, said that he hopes the members of AWEP will be actively involved in empowering women, especially young girls attending universities, as they are in need of role models.
The Ethiopian chapter will be providing different support services to its members, such as training and knowledge enhancement, provision of a platform for networking, facilitation of export market linkages as well as providing outreach and leadership development programs.