Is Female Entrepreneurship the Key to Peace?

By Dr. Terry Neese

According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, 8 million U.S. businesses are currently women-owned. Women-owned firms have an economic impact of $3 trillion dollars in annual revenues and they have approximately 23 million employees (or voters), which is 16 percent of all U.S. jobs. Women in the U.S. are starting companies 2-3X faster than their male counterparts. Why is this important data?

It is widely acknowledged that societies who are economically stable have a much greater capacity for peace. The case for such a bold statement can be found through evidence in the relationship between democracies and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). (Przeworski and Limongi, 1995. Modernization: Theories and Facts, World Politics.)

  • Democracies are generally stable above $6,000 GDP per capita (World Bank)
  • Democracies are generally vulnerable to coups and civil wars between $3,000 and $6,000 GDP per capita (World Bank)
  • Democracies are likely to fail below $3,000 GDP per capita (World Bank)

Rwanda’s GDP per capita is $620 dollars and Afghanistan’s GDP per capita is $687, which puts them both well below the $3,000 level where democracies are likely to fail.

That is why the work that IEEW is doing in these countries is so important. The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women’s PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Program helps provide women with a voice in their fight to establish peace and free market opportunities. Women are 50% of the world’s population, which gives us the ability to make major changes in the world’s economy.

In our 8th year, over 400 women have graduated from the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Program. Additional data shows that eighty percent of our graduates are still in business today, compared to a U.S. 57% failure rate in small business start ups within the first five years. Each PTB graduate provides on average 25 jobs per company. Our graduates from Rwanda and Afghanistan are setting a high mark in job creation.

Successful business statistics and impressive personal stories show women graduating from our program and getting involved in public policy as well. Rwanda has the notable position of being #1 in the world for women in government with 63.8% of the lower house of parliament represented by women and 38.5% in the Senate. Our graduates who have served, or are now serving in public office are: Teddy Gacinya, Anne-Marie Kantengwa, Marie-Josee Kankera, Anne Rugege, Sara Mukandutiye and Erin Asiimwe. Anne Marie Kantengwa , a 2013 PTB Graduate, owns Hotel Chez Lando and has a staff of 140 people. After the genocide, she took over her family-run hotel and transformed it into a wonderful destination hotel in the City of Kigali. (

In Afghanistan, PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Program alumnae, along with other Afghan business women, founded LEAD (Leading Entrepreneurs of Afghanistan Development). In January 2014, LEAD founders, including PTB graduates Freshta Hazeq, Farah Karimi, and Manizha Wafeq, met with President Hamid Karzai to express their support for his administration to sign the Bilateral Strategic Agreement with the United States to help with the relief of the current economic and political deterioration being felt within the country. This was a huge step for women in Afghanistan.

The number of women who have graduated from the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women’s PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Program shows us that even in countries where women face great hardships; they still have the desire to contribute to their country economically, socially, and politically.

The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women believes strongly in these philosophies; but more importantly, we believe in women. Women are the caretakers, the mothers, grandmothers, the wives, the sisters, the aunts, and so much more. They are emerging leaders in the business world; women are the key to bolstering our future global economy. Small business has been the backbone of economic stability, and the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) believes that women are the key to the development and stability of business in emerging economies. There is no doubt that women entrepreneurs are establishing credibility and peace around the globe.