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Thunderbird Delivers Entrepreneurial Skill-building Program for Afghan Women

Thunderbird, an International Business School, Seeks Funding for 2015 Project Artemis Program

On the heels of numerous tragic events affecting women in the last few months, and the news on Tuesday of President Obama’s plans to remove troops from Afghanistan by 2016, Thunderbird School of Global Management is committed more than ever to empowering and educating Afghan women. Project Artemis – Afghanistan is an international business training program that aims to build the entrepreneurial skills of promising Afghan businesswomen. The program endows women with the skills necessary to lead productive and successful lives helping drive economic stability in their country.

Since 2005, Thunderbird for Good has led programs aimed at educating businesswomen in developing countries. It is now even more critical that women in Afghanistan remain a priority as they are left vulnerable in their unstable economy.

A two-week business education program delivered at Thunderbird in Glendale, Ariz., Thunderbird for Good’s Project Artemis offers Afghan women decision-making training, site visits, cultural outings, mentorship by women entrepreneurs, online business coaching and follow-up support once they return home. 

“Aspiring entrepreneurs in emerging markets have passion and tenacity, but often lack the knowledge to write business plans, manage cash flow and market their enterprises,” says Wynona Heim, Thunderbird for Good client director. “Thunderbird for Good works to tear down these barriers to success through management education programs like Project Artemis. The skills they learn here are a platform to help fight poverty, secure peace and improve living conditions in their communities which is now more critical than ever.”

The 2013 cohort of Artemis Fellows, the most recent class, came from five provinces throughout Afghanistan and run diverse businesses from traditional silk and wool weaving to modern fashion boutiques and saffron production. The 2013 Project Artemis program produced 11 graduates, bringing the total Artemis alumni to 74 since the program’s inception in 2005. Graduates return to Afghanistan to run successful businesses that have created over 2,000 jobs for their local communities, and they have mentored more than 10,000 Afghan citizens in business and leadership skills. 

“The success of this nine-year program at Thunderbird has been incredible,” says Heim. “I have seen first hand how the skills they learn here are carried over to Afghanistan and put to work. Project Artemis graduates run businesses that employ hundreds of fellow citizens, providing economic opportunity for their entire community.”

In 2010, Fatema Akbari graduated from Project Artemis and mapped out a five-year growth strategy for her furniture manufacturing business in Kabul. That year her income grew four times and she now employs 88 Afghans, mostly women she trained as carpenters who lost their husbands in the war. “I am passionate about helping women gain employment and develop security in their lives,” states Fatema. “Women have the ability to contribute to the economic stability of their communities and Afghanistan as a whole; they just need someone to show them the way.”

Fatema also passed along the entrepreneurial spirit to her daughter, Shahla, and encouraged her to participate in10,000 Women, an introductory international business training program funded by the Goldman Sachs Foundation that is also run by Thunderbird in Afghanistan. Shahla was accepted in 2012 and went on to launch her own footwear company. Just a year after launching the business, Shahla employed 20 staff and opened two retail locations and a production facility to meet the high demand. In 2013, Shahla decided to sell her already successful business in order to pursue an undergraduate degree in India. 

The mother and daughter are only two of the many Afghan women who secured international business skills through Thunderbird and took their skills back to Afghanistan to start and grow successful businesses. Project Artemis – Afghanistan has had participants from 17 different provinces, helped more than 80 women receive business certificates, and, in 2011, the program expanded to include Pakistan. Thunderbird’s commitment to ensuring the success of these women extends beyond the two-week program; they follow the progress of Artemis fellows well after they return home. The program also facilitates ongoing contact to gauge successes and challenges, and partners participants with mentors in the U.S. to help them continue to grow and strengthen their businesses. 

Project Artemis is just one of Thunderbird for Good’s international business training programs offering non-traditional students with business and management skills an opportunity to drive change in their communities. The program is funded through a combination of private donations and support from corporate, government, volunteers and non-profit partners. Thunderbird is currently seeking funding for the 2015 class, which will be a pivotal time for Afghan women.

The purpose of Thunderbird for Good and Project Artemis can be summarized in the words of Thunderbird’s second president, Dr. William Schurz (1945-1951), “Borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers.” 


About Thunderbird School of Global Management

 Thunderbird is the world’s No.1-ranked international business school with nearly 70 years of experience in developing leaders with the global mindset, business skills and social responsibility necessary to create real, sustainable value for their organizations, communities and the world. Dedicated to preparing business school students to be global leaders and committed global citizens, Thunderbird was the first graduate international business school to adopt a Professional Oath of Honor. Thunderbird’s global network of alumni numbers 40,000 graduates in more than 140 nations worldwide. The school is sought out by graduate students, working professionals and companies seeking to gain the skills necessary for success in today’s global economy. For more about Thunderbird, visit 

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