Sana Afouaiz has partnered with the U.S. Embassy in Belgium to launch Generation W, a program that empowers women through supporting their entrepreneurial success. Sana originally founded the nonprofit Womenpreneur to offer women training, and most importantly, a network as they navigate their business careers. Sana shares the U.S. Embassy’s goals of embracing diversity, including marginalized communities, and investing in youth outreach programming.
The ability to form connections and create communities is the essence of being human, Sana believes. “Whomever I speak with, I always find we have something in common. I feel most at home with people who are open-minded, people who accept diversity and inclusion.” This deeply-held belief has led her to a life of activism. Inspired by working on women empowerment issues at international organizations such as the United Nations, she felt an urgent need “to fill a gap.”
In 2016, Sana founded the nonprofit Womenpreneur with “a vision in mind of really creating opportunities for those who are excluded.” In the years since, that network has grown, with at least 16,000 women in 23 countries served by her program. Yet she believes the impact of this investment is far broader. Wome are “at the heart of the ecosystem of the future of society,” Sana says, and helping boost their voices and expand their opportunities benefits everyone.
After years of investing in Womenpreneur, Sana has learned to turn challenges into opportunities for connection. During the COVID pandemic, which left so many people isolated and feeling disconnected, she launched Generation W, a program in partnership with the U.S. Embassy that supports professional goals of women entrepreneurs “who can’t be supported by the government, or by the public sector because of the [commercial] nature of their activities, and because they may be intimidated by public administrations.” By providing opportunities for training and networking, Generation W has helped foster resilient and creative women business leaders. “We want to help them in order to relaunch their businesses, and to adapt to the needs of the market.”
“We need to rethink the way we see things.”
The challenges posed by the pandemic’s lockdowns and isolation made Generation W even more valuable to its participants. The program organized activities, training sessions, and workshops for women to learn practical skills so they may surmount challenges and sustain momentum in their professional lives. “We’ve helped them transition to be more visible online, to attract new clients and consumers, and to work on their branding,” Sana says proudly. “We also helped them understand how to get assistance from the government and public sector.”
Today’s young women will create tomorrow’s successful entrepreneurs, leaders, and activists, Sana believes. Womepreneur pays special attention to women ages 18-30. Activities specifically tailored to their needs and goals support their efforts to find jobs that offer the best opportunities for their skill sets. Sana is proud to report that many participants have found suitable jobs through the program.
Womenpreneur provides experiences that impart far more than professional training for tomorrow’s business leaders, Sana believes. “I hope that people, and especially the world leaders, will be more empathetic,” she says. “I think more than ever, we need to be empathetic as humans, as institutions, as countries in order to prepare a better future for the next generations.” Ultimately, she believes that the resilience and creativity encouraged by Womenpreneur programs will serve a vital role in the future. “We need to rethink the way we see things. The way we behave. More than ever, we need to be innovative and reinvent ourselves all the time.”“I think more than ever, we need to be empathetic as humans.”