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  • Writer's pictureMadam Wokie

African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) 2013

In July and August 2013 Maryann Kaikai, Creative Director of Madam Wokie represented Sierra Leone at the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP). The comprised of young entrepreneurs from Ethiopian, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Below is a diary of the experience... enjoy

The 2013 AWEP commenced in Chicago. We spent the day getting to know one another, learning more about the programme and what our experience would be like over the next few weeks. Our guide also took us on a tour of the city and we went scavenger hunting.

Day 2 of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program was so much fun. Apart from the very insightful seminars organised for participants, we got to meet and chat with Desirée Glapion Rogers,  the Chief Executive Officer of Johnson Publishing Company. Here are a few snaps for the day.

Day 3 of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program included a workshop on marketing and communications with Ms Terra Winston of Interract consulting at the Allerton hotel. After the workshop we departed for a Chicago sidewalk sale and fashion show organized by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The sidewalk sale and fashion show included 44 participants; 24 of who were vendors, showcasing their designs on the runway. Afterwards we had a meeting with Ms Melissav Gamble, the Director of External Affairs, Internships and lecturer at Columbia College. She gave an overview of the fashion industry in the US and the reasons why emerging designers experience difficulties in having their products sold in high end stores. We also had a meeting with Ms Maria Krasinski on social media and the effectiveness of different platforms for different audiences. Our day ended at designer Azza Atelier’s Chicago based boutique. She gave us an insight into her business, her design technique, stockist, employees and the everyday challenges she faces in the fashion industry.

On Day 4 of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme we meet the Honourable Karen Bass, an American politician who has served in the United States House of Representatives since 2011. Karen Bass made history when the California Assembly elected her to be its 67th Speaker, thereby making her the first African American woman in the country to serve in this powerful state legislative role.

They say all work and no play makes you a dull girl, I say all work and no food makes Mary-Ann quite grumpy... hehe

I wore this Madam Wokie ensemble to dinner with the ladies of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme.

It was a rainy day in New York but  since we had a bit of time in between events, a few participants and I decided to visit the twin towers were so many American lost their lives. The National September 11 Memorial honours the men, women and children who perished in the terrorist attacks of  Sept 11 2001 and 26 Feb,1993. It  commemorates the lives lost,recognises the thousands who survived and allows visitors to come together in the spirit of unity that emerged in the wake of 9/11. The 9/11 attacks killed 2,977 people from more than 90 nations. The oldest victim was 85 yrs old,the youngest was two. More than 400 were first responders who died performing their sworn duties.

So we were in the capital Washington DC for another round of meetings and seminars. 

The first  Day of meeting was  held at the Meridian Dining Room.We had a thought provoking video conference with Ms Giulia Corinaldi, the Mentoring Programme Director of the Cherie Blair Foundation. She  gave an overview of the Cherie Blair Foundation's business mentoring programme and its role in empowering women around the world. She also enlightened us on the foundations works in places like Sierra Leone to empower women to generate their own income and develop projects which encourages them to become successful and self sustaining entrepreneurs.

Our meeting with US Secretary of State, John Kerry was definitely one of my highlights of the programme.

Here are a few pictures that were taken before our meeting with John Kerry. It was such an amazing experience sharing this journey with such beautiful African women. Their strength and determination to excel is beyond infectious and I can't help but be inspired by their individual journeys.

Lastly we paid a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood for some R & R

Madam Wokie


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