A Review of Objectives, Activities, and Future Plans AWCCI, Organizational Document (V6) - Page 8

BACKGROUND Launch of LEAD The predecessor organization of the AWCCI, Leading Entrepreneurs for Afghanistan’s Development (LEAD) was born out of a recognition that there were no existing organizations dedicated to advocacy for Afghan women’s interests in the private sector. Planning among Afghan businesswomen began in 2013 to develop an organization that could speak on their behalf, which resulted in the launch of LEAD on 22 January 2014. LEAD was registered as a businesswomen’s association. The growth of LEAD was supported through a 3-year grant from the Office of Global Women’s Issues, a division of the US State Department. Vision and Mission • Vision: An Afghanistan in which Afghan women and female entrepreneurs have national and international recognition for their contribution in the sustainable economic development of Afghanistan and unimpeded access to economic opportunity and prosperity. • Mission: AWCCI works to meaningfully represent, advance, and secure Afghan women’s economic interests, nationally and internationally. Transition to Chamber of Commerce In the fall of 2016, the leadership of LEAD had meetings with the First Lady of Afghanistan, H.E. Rula Ghani, to hear her views about the possibility of LEAD transitioning to a chamber of commerce. Following encouragement from the First Lady, LEAD initiated a consultation process with its members. The response was overwhelming support for the measure. At this point, LEAD sent a formal letter to the Office of the First Lady expressing its interest in becoming a chamber of commerce. The letter was then forwarded to the Office of the President, who referred the matter to be scheduled into the proceedings of the High Economic Council. On 12 March 2017, LEAD’s proposal for a transition to a chamber of commerce was debated at the High Economic Council, chaired by President Ashraf Ghani. Following a spirited exchange of views, President Ghani approved the creation of the Afghanistan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries. The existence of AWCCI was initially approved for three years. 7 On 31 December 2018, a major delegation from the AWCCI – consisting of 11 members of the national Board of Directors and 20 members of zonal Boards of Directors – delivered a comprehensive presentation to President Ghani and the First Lady, summarizing their achievements as a chamber of commerce and laying out the future plans of the organization. The President once again referred the matter to the High Economic Council for debate, at which point the AWCCI’s status as a permanent chamber was approved by the Council and enshrined within a Presidential Decree. Expansion into the provinces While Kabul is the economic center of Afghanistan, as well as being its most socially progressive city, it has always been the mission of AWCCI to provide support to Afghan businesswomen on a national level. In January 2018, the AWCCI initiated its plans to launch regional offices in four zones: North (headquartered in Mazar-i-Sharif), South (headquartered in Kandahar), East (headquartered in Jalalabad), and West (headquartered in Herat). AWCCI’s Kabul headquarters also serves as the Central Zone office. Expansion into the provinces began officially on 28 January 2018, with the convening of a General Assembly of Afghan businesswomen in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Elections were successfully held to select the five members of the Board of Directors for the North Zone. Following the launch of the North Zone office, a flurry of activity ensued in order stand up the remaining zonal offices. General Assemblies and Board Member elections were organized in February for the West Zone, in March for the South Zone, and in April for the East Zone. The launch of the zonal offices was supported by the Ministry of Commerce & Industries, which donated office space at its facilities in Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, and Kandahar. The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Industries graciously donated office space for the AWCCI zonal office in Jalalabad. (selected by the Board of Directors), the Directors who lead various departments, and the administrative and finance staff. The Executive Body is accountable to the Board of Directors and must provide programmatic and financial updates to the Board on a regular basis. The Executive Director is limited to two 3-year terms and is subject to an annual performance review by the Board of Directors. Partners As we mentioned in the Executive Summary, the transformation of a small businesswomen’s association, LEAD, into an influential women’s chamber of commerce would not have been possible without the financial and institutional support of a range of public, private, and development sector organizations. We are deeply indebted to those organizations that have helped the AWCCI become what it is today, and we hope to continue to grow our network of partners in the years to come. Office of the First Lady The AWCCI would not exist today without the political support of the Office of the First Lady. The First Lady, Rula Ghani, was always willing to volunteer her time to listen to the aspirations and challenges of the AWCCI’s leadership and provide assistance whenever possible. The transition of LEAD to a chamber of commerce would have been extremely difficult – if not impossible – without the First Lady’s intervention. The First Lady has also been quick to provide moral support and encouragement to the AWCCI’s initiatives, from the inauguration of zonal offices to the launch of programs such as the Made by Afghan Women labelling initiative. Office of Global Women’s Issues, US Department of State The Office of Global Women’s Issues played an integral role in the AWCCI’s transformation into an influential player in the Afghan economy, through the provision of a 3-year grant covering basic operating expenses. The grant allowed the AWCCI to rent and furnish an office, cover the salaries for a full-time Executive Body, and fund research that furthered the interests of Afghan businesswomen. Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) and Roshan Telecommunications Company While the ‘seed capital’ for the launch of the AWCCI came from the US State Department, the Chamber must generate revenue and financial support from a range sources in order to achieve sustainability. One critical source of financial support must be the Afghan private sector, and the Afghanistan International Bank and Roshan Telecommunications Company are recognized in this section as the AWCCI’s first corporate sponsors. Ministry of Industry & Commerce (MoIC) The MoIC has been a consistent source of Afghan Government support for the AWCCI, even as the leadership at the ministry has changed hands since the initial launch of LEAD in 2014. The MoIC has provided the AWCCI with office spaces in Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kandahar for its zonal offices, and has cooperated with the AWCCI on a range of initiatives operated by the Chamber. Governance The activities of the AWCCI are governed by the Chamber’s By-Laws, which were approved by a General Assembly of the Chamber’s members on 2 October 2017. The Articles were modified and approved by the Chamber’s membership on 8 August 2019, in order to comply with new laws regulating chambers of commerce. The Articles provide guidelines on a range of issues, from the types and amounts of membership fees to the procedures for nominating and electing members of the Board of Directors. In 2018, the AWCCI was able to launch its zone offices in every major city of Afghanistan, representing Afghan businesswomen and female entreprenuers across the country The broad agenda of the AWCCI is shaped by the 15 members of the Board of Directors, who are elected every three years by the General Assembly of the Chamber’s members. The day-to-day activities of the Chamber are managed by an Executive Body of full-time staff, which includes the Executive Director 8