State Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson stood at her desk in the Senate Chamber and explained how the members debated and voted on bills. She laughed that some of her fellow Senators had given her a wooden soap box to stand on so she could be seen when she addressed the Chamber because she was the shortest of the 48 members. It all was part of a State Capitol tour on Thursday for Afghan business women visiting the United States.
I think its exciting and funits wonderful to meet women from other parts of the world who have the same aspirations that women in Oklahoma have, said Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City.
The business owners are in the U.S. working on a high level business training and mentoring program called Peace Through Business, sponsored by the Women Impacting Public Policy Institute, headed by Oklahoma business woman Terry Neese, in partnership with the U.S. State Department, U.S. Afghan Womens Council, and Northwood University. The women are visiting Oklahoma for the mentoring and cultural exchange component of the program.
We just feel honored that they organize all thisfor us and they welcome us here, said Ferishtah Bakhteri, who plans to open a shopping center for women in Afghanistan. Sometimes we dont have the chance to meet our own governor, but we meet with the Senators (in Oklahoma). We learn so muchits really an honor for us.
Surgeon Hasina Rasuli plans to create a mobile health clinic in rural Afghanistan. She said she had been able to visit Norman Regional Hospital and a breast cancer clinic. She was also excited by the way the Peace Through Business program reached out to other women.
Im so excited (to see) that women in all the world, how they have feelings for each other.that makes me more proud that the unity of women makes help for (not only Afghanistan women) all the women in the world. We can show that we are all women and we can do everything, Rasuli said.
Neese said while in Oklahoma, the Afghan women had been guests in the homes of Oklahoma business women who acted as personal mentors.
These women have taken the entire week off from their businesses, essentially, to house them in their homes, to have them at their businesses to talk to them about how they market their companyhow they do their books and accounting, a little bit of everything, said Neese, who explained the mentors also shared how they balanced work and family.
Bakhteri said things had changed dramatically for women in Afghanistan in the past few years, opening new opportunities in education and business.
We had some tough years in the pastwithin four years Afghanistan has developedthere are a lot of differences and visible changes which we are happy about it, and our government is also very supportive and encouraging women, Bakhteri said, adding the same was true for education. Everything is just changing positively. I would say that Afghanistan is back.