My best friend Barb Stegemann once told me that she had always wanted to serve in the Canadian Forces but a hearing problem kept her out. After I was wounded on her son, Victor’s, birthday, March 4th, she was galvanized to take up my mission.
On March 8, 2008, International Women’s Day, Barb released her bestselling book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen. Barb knew, as I do, that economic self-empowerment, especially of women, is a powerful weapon against oppression and tyranny. Barb’s mission was to help women in Afghanistan — and, by extension, their families — to become self-sufficient.
She was inspired to find a way to make legal crops in Afghanistan, like roses and orange blossoms, as lucrative as opium poppies. Barb sourced orange blossom oil from Afghan farmers and took it to a perfumer in Toronto to develop a scent for North American women. In 2010, on International Women’s Day, the first fragrance, Afghanistan Orange Blossom was launched. Two other fragrances have since followed: Noble Rose of Afghanistan and Vetiver of Haiti. She is currently developing more scents from conflict zones.
After one of the most successful pitches on the history of the Dragon’s Den, Barb secured financing and mentorship with Brett Wilson and has since been selling her perfumes in all Bay stores across Canada and is in negotiations with American retail chains.
On 13 December,2011, Barb’s dream of serving in the Canadian Forces was realized when she was appointed honourary colonel of an RCAF unit in Nova Scotia, 14 Wing Greenwood.