Global Links Program: Using Entrepreneurship to Empower Women in Iraq

For women around the world, education provides a pathway to greater economic and social independence, greater confidence and a better life. In my homeland of Iraq, accessing education can be a challenge for many women. Those who don't grow up in cities have limited opportunities for education, and many can't afford to travel to a school or pay for their education. Growing up in the center of Babylon, an ancient historic city with the hanging gardens of Babylon (one of the seven wonders of the Ancient world) about 85 kilometers (55 miles) south of Baghdad, afforded me more opportunity that others did not have in villages.

I was fortunate to not only have the opportunity for education, but also the encouragement and support of my family. My mother, who had no formal education, played a huge role in my commitment to education and desire to learn. She told me education was important for women so that they would become independent. She would stay up late with us when we studied, and was always supportive. My family taught me the values of honesty, respect, and hard work and an understanding of our culture.

It's encouraging to know that influential businesses and organizations -- like the Secretary of State's Office of Global Women's Issues, Tupperware Brands and Rollins College -- recognize that providing business opportunities to women can have a real impact on national identity and the global economy. The Global Links program has created a great opportunity for me -- and for other women -- to improve our society and economy. I learn the global skills that drive business success, share these with others and motivate them to do the same. This is especially important now in Iraq because we need to encourage the private sector to grow.

In January, I arrived in the United States for the first time feeling anxious, excited and a little unsure about what to expect from the Global Links program. I knew that I would be studying at an American university and working at a global corporation, but in the few short months that I've been here, I've already gained more knowledge and experience than I thought was possible.

My coursework at Rollins College is focused on entrepreneurship, women's business ownership and financial self-sufficiency. These are ideas that are critical to my economic vitality in Iraq, and through my externship at Tupperware Brands, I will gain practical experience from the multi-billion-dollar public company, learning the fundamentals of direct selling, sales force development, entrepreneurial strategic planning, market analysis and general management skills, among other global business skills.

I've noticed that in America, a major part of education is focused on teaching students to work as a team. These teaching methods prepare students to be leaders in the future. If students work together in university they will cooperate better in their careers. These lessons in leadership and entrepreneurship are critical to women's empowerment in Iraq, giving women the knowledge, skills and confidence to build their own businesses.

When I return back to Iraq, I plan to establish two centers at Babylon College, a career development center to help female students' transition to successful careers and a social entrepreneurship center to build stronger links with the community and offer additional services. I know that with the experiences and education I'm receiving through the Global Links program, I can become more effectively involved in my community, especially in the social aspect. This experience has already transformed me, and I feel a sense of pride that I can use my knowledge to influence other women and help them reach a better situation.

We need companies like Tupperware Brands that offer opportunities to women to improve their lives. By giving women the opportunity of education and knowledge of entrepreneurship, we are helping them to be more confident, independent and receptive in communities - and in society as a whole.