Sahar Dwaikat is a 29 year old native of Nablus. She is also a businesswoman. Sahar’s business, Flyer Ad for Graphic Design, began as just an idea in 2010 during the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN) program and has since become a fully operating business based in Nablus. Sahar also participated in the Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs Program at TYO.
In May 2013, Sahar traveled to the United States alongside Nadine, the TYO-Lebanon Country Director, to attend the prestigious “Leading and Learning” event sponsored by GE in Crotonville, New York. The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (CBFW) and GE invited Sahar to participate in this high-level gathering. Below, she shares her experiences with us about traveling to New York, taking part in Leading and Learning, and how her visits to the U.S. have shaped her as a leader.
What is the GE “Leading and Learning” event?
It’s a conference about women in leadership around the world, and it was three days. There were trainings, speakers, and panel discussions. There were many famous women leaders there, like Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook; Susan Peters, Chief Learning Officer of GE; and Swanee Hunt, a former U.S. Ambassador to Austria. I liked what Brenda Barnes, the CEO of Sara Lee, said about caring for yourself and believing in yourself. I also remembered Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, gave four things that good leaders do: drive change, make choices, keep going, like details.
One of Sahar’s favorite speakers, Swanee Hunt, the former U.S. Ambassador to Austria, encourages women leaders.
What was the most important lesson learned?
I learned that all women all over the world face the same challenges- this makes me keep going in my business in Palestine and reminds me not to stop when I face obstacles here.
What was the highlight of your trip?
During my last trip to the U.S., I made a small presentation in D.C. about my business. This time, in New York, I made a formal presentation about my business in front of 200 women in leadership. I wasn’t nervous this time, and I know did well. I was confident, and more comfortable to talk with others. I have ideas to talk with other people, I can talk with people who speak different languages, and now I have the ability to present and train others.
How has this made you a better leader?
Traveling from Palestine to America breaks many of the barriers in front of me, and I think in a different way for my business. I talk about business with more confidence than before- I believe more in myself, and I feel can do anything. I now feel more comfortable with my family, too. My parents have become more supportive of me. After my trip, my parents see that I can do anything- even travel alone to America.
Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, shares leadership tips.
What advice did you learn at the conference that would you give others?
As a Palestinian businesswoman, I have the ability to be at the same level with other women outside Palestine- also, as a Muslim woman, I possess the same level of thinking with other women. A lot of people think that the head cover means you are a “traditional woman”- but I know I can talk with anyone, meet other people, and have the same ideas as women all over the world. From this conference, I also learned to listen to all people because everyone has something important to say- and the information and knowledge they share might be useful for me at some point in the future.
Anything else to share about your trip?
I always talk about TYO- how they support me, how they gave me an office, and how they are a main customer. I always give my business card and TYO’s business card. I hope my trips can achieve something for the WISE program and other women!