Dr. LIN HIGHTOWER & MANAL ELATTIR
Making connections: gwln brings women leaders together
A key challenge faced by women in many developing countries is their lack of decision-making power in major family issues, such as financial matters. Without financial influence, many women are pushed into a passive role in society. Visionary social entrepreneurs Lin Hightower (WLW 2009) and Manal Elattir (WLW 2011) are now working together to support marginalized women to become self-sufficient and thus gain a voice in their communities.
Dr Lin Hightower is an artist /designer, art professor and Fulbright recipient at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, Georgia. When looking for ways to volunteer her expertise with non-profits, Lin put out a call to the GWLN alumni group and was quickly connected with women leading non-profits around the world. Among them, was Manal Elattir, a social entrepreneur and community leader in Morocco.
Manal is CEO of ANAROUZ, an artisan cooperative in Morocco that harnesses the existing creative talents of women to generate an income based on their unique skills, thus building their confidence and transforming them into community leaders in their own right.
Both Lin and Manal share a vision for using visual arts as a transformative means to preserve cultural heritage while also promoting financial self-reliance among women entrepreneurs. This shared vision gave Lin and Manal a solid basis for collaboration. Thanks to funding from KSU, Lin was able to visit Morocco to work directly with Manal, to source raw materials and create design concepts for ANAROUZ. Through developing suppliers and resources for Manal’s artisans as well as advising on elements of design, Lin’s contribution has been critical to developing ANAROUZ as a brand associated with design quality, as well as demonstrating ethically conscious values.
For both women, the key driver of the work they do is enabling women artisans to be partners in the social enterprise, not just passive ‘beneficiaries’. Above all, they believe more strongly than ever in the power of art to transform lives as it transcends politics, religion and power. This transformative power is evidenced by the 1,200 women who have gained economic opportunity in the Youssoufia region of Morocco as a result of this collaboration. Furthermore, 5 cooperatives with more than 200 members have benefited from Lin’s insight and training in design, color and raw material sourcing.
When asked about their experiences as alumni of the GWLN leadership program, both women credit the program with giving them the confidence to realize their respective visions for the future and believe in themselves.
Manal credits her experience with GWLN as having completely changed her way of life and how she leads her social enterprise. Above all, it is the power of the GWLN community that brought Lin and Manal together and continues to provide enduring inspiration, support, and resources to them and women like them.
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