Archive | June, 2011

Dienna Howard on “Why I volunteered with EWI”.

29 Jun

Dienna Howard has been volunteering with EWI consistently over the past year, and has dedicated her time to help continue our mission. She worked in our office weekly assisting in newsletter, blog, and directory updates. Her last day was last week. We thank Dienna for her hard work and commitment, and wish her the best as she moves on to empower more women throughout the world!

Dienna Howard, former EWI Volunteer

To get to the point where I got involved with Empowered Women International, I need to take a quick trip to the past first.

I have a background in journalism starting in high school, where I wrote pieces that ranged from bios on exchange students, articles on body image, a piece where I called the administration out on their favoritism towards specific student groups, as well as my personal experience with being considered an “oreo” by other black people (i.e., a black person who is accused of “acting white”). This continued on in college, where I wrote a piece on the immaturity of some college students, a piece urging people to stop saying n-word, and a feature on the student government president. I got sidetracked by switching from journalism to theater, a move I sometimes feel may have hindered me from being taken seriously as an article writer, but a move I don’t regret. (I have written theatrical pieces and was recruited after graduating college to do a collaborative piece called Amistad: Recapturing the Spirit, combining some original work with researched work to expose the audience to the trials and tribulations of what the slaves aboard the Amistad ship had gone through.)

After years doing admin support work and research at my former job, I wanted to build my writing portfolio again. I wanted to know that I was still capable of doing more than sitting quietly at a cubicle minding my business. Last summer, I found out about EWI through, where they had a writing position advertised. The fact that EWI focused on working with women who were artists strongly appealed to me, so I was determined to get involved with them. I got to interview great women such as bath and body product creator Brigitta Kral, jewelry artist Kata Witorsch, and sculptor Alicia Meza. Hearing about the many things they’ve accomplished since getting involved with EWI was an uplifting experience.

As my six-year tenure at my former job came to a surprising end this February, I was left confused and wanting to figure things out. What was my purpose? What was my passion? I was working to live as opposed to just living, and I wanted to figure out what really made me tick. I wanted to get more involved with EWI, so I contacted Marga Fripp and was welcomed with open arms to get more involved in the office as a volunteer.

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Member Spotlight: Kamar Derder

28 Jun

Kamar Derder, a mother of two, moved from Morocco to the United States in 2001 to live closer to her three brothers and three sisters.  When she was a little girl she learned how to sew from her mother and began making quilts from colorful scraps of scarves and towels in her home. She went on to become a talented designer and decorator, running a successful business from her home in Morocco.

Kamar first came to EWI in 2010 to learn how to market her design skills, but then some difficult events in her life prevented her from building her business.  In 2011, she returned to EWI and is about to graduate from our Entrepreneur Training for Success program.

Kamar making soaps at We the People Project 2011

In just three months we have seen Kamar start her business, Designs by Kamar, and develop new creative ways to generate income. Most recently, Kamar had an exhibit with her sister Amal at our We the People Project. Together, the sisters hosted a Moroccan room where they displayed the garbs of their homeland, showcased Kamar’s designs, served traditional Moroccan tea, and sold Amal’s jewelry and Kamar’s handmade fancy Moroccan inspired soaps.

Kamar and Amal

A few years ago, Kamar went to school for massage therapy.  After starting the Entrepreneur Training for Success program in April, Kamar realized that offering personal massage in addition to pursing her design business would be a good way to increase her earnings.

When asked about the role EWI has had in her life, Kamar says, “I will be thankful all my life for the help that EWI has offered me.”

If your are interested in hiring her for custom design or massage therapy please contact Kamar at

You can also purchase Kamar’s hand decorated soaps on our Etsy store.

Apply NOW! Entrepreneur Training for Success, Fall 2011.

27 Jun
2009 Graduate Artist Naomie Belayneh with our intern, Zufan marketing art at an EWI event.

Apply NOW! Entrepreneur Training for Success, Fall 2011

Empowered Women International is recruiting 12-15 local immigrant, refugee and American-born women artists, artisans and social entrepreneurs for its mentoring and business start-up training: Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS). ETS is an award-winning program of Empowered Women International.

The program runs for three months from September to December every Monday from 6:30pm-9pm in Alexandria. Interested applicants can contact Shannon at or call EWI at 571-366-7724.

Training tuition: Tuition is based on sliding scale fee.

Application deadline: August 15th

Interested in the program?

Welcome to the New EWI Blog!

27 Jun

The Empowered Women International team is thrilled to present our brand new blog! Each week we will be bringing you posts on featured products from our Etsy store, EWI member and artists spotlights, timely and interesting articles, information about upcoming events and opportunities, and resources to help empower and inspire you in all of your entrepreneurial endeavors.

If you have any topics you would like to us to address, drop us a comment or email

We’ll be posting daily. Make sure you don’t miss anything by subscribing to our blog or adding us to your Google Reader!

Photo by r3v || cls via flickr/Creative Commons

Featured Item of the Week: Moroccan Red Coral and Turquoise Beaded Necklace

27 Jun

Every Monday, we will feature a new handmade product made by one of our many talented members. All products are for sale online.  The artist receives 50% of the sale so by purchasing handmade products through EWI, you support both the artist and our continued efforts to empower women through entrepreneurship.

First up, we bring you this gorgeous necklace made by: artist Amal Derder:

Originally from Morocco, Amal Derder immigrated to the United States thirteen years ago. Amal discovered her gift for jewelry creation only a year ago. Since her discovery, she has created hundreds of distinctive and unique pieces all inspired from her Moroccan roots. The first time we met Amal she shared with us one of the reasons she loves making jewelry:

Being a Moroccan woman primarily means that our ancestors were originally Berbers. Berbers were Morocco’s original inhabitants and the jewelry I make definitely derives from my ancestor’s traditional design. Crafting my jewelry allows me to share part of my culture and past with other people.

This beautiful necklace features red coral and turquoise and red colored glass beads with a circular magnetic clasp. Perfect for summer, this piece is sure to make a statement!

You can find more Amal’s pieces here.

Thank You for Making the We the People Project Such a Success!

22 Jun

We the People 2011: The Lives, Art, and Cultures of Muslim and Arab Women was a powerful program, and one that was most needed and timely! Thank you to all who attended the cultural festival and performance, spent time meeting out artists, listen to their stories and learned from their experiences.

The day was filled with great learning about Muslim women’s experiences in the United States. The audience listen to stories that revealed struggle for identity, and experienced art that represented social justice, cultural metaphors, and freedom of religion.

Many thanks to our friends in media, Topher Forhecz, the Gazette, Karen Kullgren,Takoma Park Patch, Ali S. Ahmed, Alhurra Television and many others who featured our artists and participants, and gave prime time to the topic of understanding our Muslim-American community.  Many thanks also to all of our wonderful artists and volunteers who made this event possible!

As Rohina said in a dialogue with the audience after her show Unveiled, “the most deadly of all weapons of mass destruction is ignorance and fear.”

Let us not live in fear and ignorance any longer, and get to know our neighbors. We have so many stories to tell one another. We have so much to learn from each other.

Let us embrace our diversity, as one of the most powerful assets we have as a society. This is what made us succeed in the first place, and it will help us thrive in the long run.

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Empowered Women Donors Reception a Success!

14 Jun

Originally Posted on June 8th, 2011

Dear Friends,

Many thanks for coming to celebrate with us on June 5 at Jeannie Hodges’s home in Alexandria the many successes EWI has accomplished with your help, continued support and investment in our work. We all were very moved by our women’s stories, and how each of these women had used EWI’s mentoring, coaching, entrepreneurial and leadership training to move forward in their lives, reinvent themselves and pursue their dreams.

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June Artist of the Month: Meseret Desta

14 Jun

Originally Posted on June 7th, 2011

Meseret Desta has been creating beautiful and inspiring artwork all her life. She is an internationally acclaimed and award winning artist, originally from Ethiopia. Art has been a sanctuary for Meseret, who has faced many challenges in Ethiopia and here in the United States. She arrived in the U.S. in 2001 soon after September 11th. Although it was difficult to build a life in a new country, Meseret persevered through the challenges of attaining higher education and employment. Through it all, art remained at the center of her life.

Meseret pours her passion and emotions into her artwork. Her work focuses on portraits and figurative paintings, highlighting the struggles of women around the world. She incorporates nature into her paintings, especially the vivid and colorful open markets of Ethiopia, to represent freedom and hope. The smaller scale of portraits allows Meseret to portray powerful facial expressions, which she says is a way for her to “express my emotions through peoples’ faces in my art.”

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Graduate Update: Cheryl Audet Lavoie

14 Jun

Originally Posted on June 7th, 2011

“Works of special merit are the monotypes of… Cheryl Audet Lavoie… The spontaneous and immediate qualities of Ms. Lavoie’s ‘Sea Ranch’ and ‘Brayer’ are particularly arresting.”

Robert R. Newlen

Since graduation Cheryl has pursued her artistic career and has exhibited in the past year in several Juried or Curated exhibitions including:

  • The Visual Arts Center of Panama City, Panama City
  • Panama City Arts, Panama City
  • The Senior Center at Panama City Beach, Panama City, Florida
  • Del Ray Artisans, Virginia
Working from her studio located right in Alexandria, Virginia, Cheryl has continued to produce beautiful drawings and paintings.  EWI graduate Cheryl Audet Lavoie has a piece of work being exhibited at the Del Ray Gallery exhibit this month!  Be sure to check out her work!

Thank you to the Womenade Cirlce!

14 Jun

Originally Posted on June 6th, 2011

Thank you so much to Womenade for selecting Empowered Women International as one of their 2011 grantees along with Jubilee Jobs and Computer Corps!

We had a fabulous time mixing and mingling at the celebratory potluck fundraiser on on Friday evening!

Learn more about Womenade and how they support women in DC Metro area.