Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer for Global Women’s Issues today congratulated the “Peace Through Business” women graduates.
At the graduation ceremony, Ms. Verveer said the event celebrates the graduates’ send-off as they prepare to return home to grow their enterprises-women invest upwards of 90% in their family and community-and share their skills and knowledge they have obtained with other female entrepreneurs.
“This is a great responsibility that you bear. You have a great deal to share- lessons in financing and marketing, management skills and business strategy development. All are important lessons, necessary to turn the dreams of your fellow entrepreneurs into reality. But there’s another lesson that I urge you to bring back home with you – and that lesson is that “we are all in this together.” -Ms. Verveer
She highlighted that 3,494 miles separate Rwanda from Afghanistan. She said the women were first selected to participate in the Peace Through Business program. She said they must have seemed like an awfully large distance – and not just in terms of geography.
“The differences are considerable and varied – in language, dress, religion and customs. You might have wondered what, if anything, you shared in common with some of your fellow participants.” -Ms. Verveer
She stated that the daughters of both Rwanda and Afghanistan have been forced to grow up all too fast, raised in the legacy of horrendous war and violence. She added that no one in either country has been unaffected by the legacy of fighting. Both nations have experienced a terrible void left by so many being killed or forced to flee to safety.
“And in both places, it has been ordinary women who have stepped up in an extraordinary fashion to lead the way to progress.” -Ms. Verveer
According to Ms. Verveer, in the wake of the tragedy that unfolded in 1994, women and girls made up 70 percent of the population of Rwanda. She highlighted with a pressing need to rebuild itself, Rwanda could no longer afford to tolerate the discrimination endured by so many generations of women in the past.
“Doors that had been shut for far too long were suddenly open to women. Girls who did not dare dream of lives outside the home now have jobs. Rwanda leads the world in political representation for females – at 56%, the highest percentage of women in Parliament of any country on Earth and the first to hold a majority.” -Ms. Verveer
She commended Rwanda for proving why eliminating gender disparities in elected representatives is so crucial, as female representatives have led the way on landmark legislation: reforming laws on sexual violence, property rights and family law.
She stressed that the United States is committed to backing the graudtaes up every step of the way. She added that President Obama and Secretary Clinton have charged the Office of Global Women’s Issues with ensuring that the rights of women are considered across the board, in all of our relationships with our partners around the world.
“You are the leaders because you are serving on the front lines. It isn’t easy or glamorous. But this is how change comes about – from the woman who decides that she too can be a television graphic designer or a journalist or a school administrator. When times are hard and when change seems to perpetually be an uphill battle, I hope that you will remember the faces around you today. Your fellow leaders. We are all in this together.” -Ms. Verveer