Posts Tagged ‘Women Entrepreneurs’

As she embarked on her last six months as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, mindful of the limited time remaining,  in every major speech whether at home or abroad, highlighted her signature issue and explained how gender equity has an impact on national economies.   Education for women and girls, fair pay, access to bank accounts and credit, protection from abuse and forced labor were among topics that consistently figured in as platforms for raising economic profiles in a 21st century world where national strength is based on more than military might alone.

When she traveled through Asia last July, it was very clear that she was on a farewell tour.   It was a bittersweet valedictory.  Everyone in every audience knew that they would not be seeing her as America’s top diplomat again, and she knew that her words would resonate perhaps as never before.

This speech in Cambodia last July resounded with its significance to her State Department legacy.  It is classic HRC with many quotable quotes.  These are not “soft” issues, and this speech clarifies the reasons.  Revisiting it seems a fitting way to begin Women’s History Month.

Remarks to the Lower Mekong Initiative Womens’ Gender Equality and Empowerment Dialogue


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sofitel Hotel
Siem Reap, Cambodia
July 13, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Minister Phavi, for that introduction and also for describing the results of what has been, by all reports, an excellent meeting. And I thank all the heads of delegations who are here and all of the attendees. I want to welcome all our partners from the Lower Mekong nation and from the Friends of the Lower Mekong. And I want to commend the Government of Cambodia for its leadership in the Lower Mekong Initiative and for co-hosting this conference.

We launched this organization three years ago to expand cooperation on issues that affect the daily lives of people across the region. And I’m getting some feedback. I’m hearing the Cambodian translation at the same time. (Laughter.) I wish I spoke Cambodian, but I don’t. So I was having a little trouble, but thank you for that.

We launched this organization three years ago to expand cooperation on issues that affect the daily lives of the people across the region, from protecting the environment to managing water resources to improving infrastructure, education, and public health. And now with the inclusion of the government in Nay Pyi Taw we are poised to make even greater progress together.
Yesterday in Phnom Penh, I announced that the United States is easing sanctions to allow American businesses to invest there. And today I am pleased to add that we are also launching a new partnership with the nonprofit Abbott Fund to invest one million dollars in the health and education for women and girls.

I am delighted that the Lower Mekong Initiative is now also focusing on the rights and opportunities of women. At the ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh this morning, we adopted a joint statement by all of the countries represented that will integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment through the LMI agenda. I like what the Minister said about how we came together to care to share and dare to dream, and I think that’s a very good description of what you have been doing here.

As Secretary of State, I make these issues about women and girls a priority everywhere I go. Because when women have the chance to participate in the economic and political lives of their communities, not only do their lives improve, but the lives of their families do as well. Commerce flourishes, instability declines, and you see a general uplifting of societies and nations. And I have met women all over this region who are living this truth every day – educators in Hanoi, entrepreneurs in Bangkok, democracy activists in Yangon, garment workers here in Siem Reap, women like all of you who are working hard for progress throughout the Mekong region.

Unfortunately, as you know so well, outdated legal and social barriers continue to limit women’s participation in business and politics. According to the World Bank, more than 100 countries have laws that restrict women’s economic activity, whether it is opening a bank account on their own, signing a contract, owning land, or pursuing the profession of their choice. And millions of women here in Southeast Asia are trapped in the informal economy, laboring in fields and factories for very low wages with very few protections. And of course, some have it even worse – victims of forced labor, forced prostitution, or other forms of modern day slavery.

Now, too often, discussions of these issues are on the margins of international debate. We have separate parallel conversations about women’s rights, about alleviating poverty, and then we have another conversation about international economics. But I once asked an economist in Africa, after spending the day traveling through an African country seeing women working in the fields, women working in the markets, women fetching fuel, women carrying water, women tending children – I asked, “Don’t you think it’s time we count women contributions to the economy in some way.” And he responded, “No, what they do is not part of the economy.” And I said, “Well, if every woman working in the field, in the markets, in the homes were to stop working for a week, I think every economist would learn they are definitely part of the economy.” (Applause.)

All these issues are related, and we need to start thinking about them in an integrated way, because in the end, what is an economy for? An economy is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. An economy is to enable people to make more out of their own lives as well as to make a living. And therefore, the best economic systems are ones which give the most opportunity to the greatest number of people. And what we have to do in the 21st century is to take a hard look about what we can do, not just in Southeast Asia but around the world, to make sure that economies are working for people and not just people at the top, but people throughout society. Because, after all, most people don’t live at the highest, elite level of any society. That’s a very small group. And if the results of people’s hard work in any society is not spread across all the people but instead goes up to the top, you will not see the kind of progress that is possible.

So as I traveled across Asia this week – from Japan to Mongolia, to Vietnam, to Laos, and now Cambodia – I’ve been talking about the mutually reinforcing role that economics and human rights play in not only your lives, but in America’s engagement in the region – what is sometimes called our pivot to Asia. Labor issues promoting workers rights, improving labor conditions, supporting women’s economic participation, protecting people from modern day slavery is all part about how you build prosperous, peaceful societies.

And so today, I want to focus on the rights of workers here in Southeast Asia and in our modern global economy. It’s important that we understand fair labor standards for men and women can spur economic growth and widen the circle of prosperity. And governments, businesses, and workers all have a responsibility to make that happen.

So let’s begin with rights. The international community and international law recognize that workers everywhere, regardless of income or status, are entitled to certain universal rights, including the right to form and join a union and to bargain collectively. Child labor, forced labor, discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or other factors, should be universally prohibited.

So defending these labor rights and improving working conditions is a smart economic investment, but it’s also a very important value. Now back in 1999, my husband was president of the United States and the entire world was fiercely debating what we should be doing to deal with what is called globalization. Well, my husband gave speeches at both the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization. And he delivered the same message to each audience: To deny the importance of core labor issues in a global economy is to deny the dignity of work. The belief that honest labor fairly compensated gives meaning and structure to our lives.

Well, that was true then; it was true when I was a little girl and I watched my mother working in our home, and I watched my father working in his small business; and it is true today. Standing up for workers’ rights and high labor standards is both right and moral, but it is also smart and strategic. Just look at the progress that has taken place here in Cambodia.

In the late 1990s, this country was emerging out of years of war and economic ruin. Nearly 80 percent of Cambodians made a very meager living by subsistence farming. And the new government was looking for ways to boost growth and connect to the global economy. In the United States, my husband’s administration was convinced that trade incentives could be used to strengthen workers’ rights around the world. The result was an agreement – an agreement between the United States and Cambodia that opened American markets to Cambodian textiles in return for tough new monitoring programs in local garment factories. Now that agreement wasn’t perfect – no agreement ever is – and there are certainly, as I have heard, problems in garment factories across the country. But compare where Cambodia was in 1999 and where it is today. Working conditions have improved. Wages have risen. It has become easier to form a union, and instead of scaring off investors, the fact of these reforms actually attracted them.

Multinational clothing companies saw a chance to clean up their supply chains and improve their reputation. So they started buying more and more Cambodian products, and exports soared. Where there was once just a handful of state-owned textile and apparel factories employing only a few thousand people, within 10 years there were hundreds of new factories providing jobs for more than 350,000 Cambodians – mostly young women, who migrated from poor rural communities to earn wages far above the average of what otherwise would have been available to them.

Research conducted by the International Labor Organization and other institutions tell us that this is not an isolated example. Respecting workers’ rights leads to positive, long-term economic outcomes, including higher levels of foreign direct investment. And bringing workers, especially women, into the formal economy has ripple effects: Inequality declines while mobility increases, taxes are paid, countries and communities are stronger and better able to meet the rising expectations of their people.

Now the flip side of that is also true. Denying workers their universal rights costs society dearly in lost productivity, innovation, and growth, as well as undermining the rule of law and creating instability. So we should pay attention to these findings.

I do hope that decision makers around the world, including in my own country, actually look at evidence, because evidence matters. Whether you’re a scientist looking at research or a government official looking at analysis, look at the evidence. Here in Southeast Asia, economies have grown rapidly by attracting foreign investors looking for low-cost labor and material and by exporting affordable goods to more developed markets. But this export-driven model can only take a country and a region so far.

In the wake of the global financial crisis and worldwide recession, Asian countries can no longer count on endless demands from Europe and the United States. And by the same token, American manufacturers may be looking for new customers in new markets, especially in Asia. That’s why developed nations, like the United States, will need to build more at home and sell more abroad. And developing countries, in Asia and elsewhere, will need to grow a larger middle class that will fuel demand for both domestic and imported goods and services. Henry Ford, back at the beginning of the 20th century, when he started building cars in Detroit, Michigan back in the United States, paid his workers the unheard salary of $5 a day. And all of the other employers came to him and they complained that he was paying his workers too much and that would raise the wages of all the other workers in all the other businesses. And Henry Ford said, “If I don’t pay my workers, who will buy the cars that I am making?”

So if you begin to pay your workers more, they then buy more goods, which actually helps more businesses. And that is the next phase of growth in Asia, as well as the future of the global economy. We should not be in a race to the bottom. We should be in a race to see how we raise income, raise standards of living, and raise the sharing of prosperity. So for this to happen, we will have to make sure that women have the opportunity to move from the informal economy to the formal economy with employment. We will have to make sure that migrant workers are respected and protected, that people in modern-day slavery are free and rehabilitated. In effect, how do we transform the workforce to create more opportunities?

Well to begin with, governments will have to modernize labor laws to respect workers’ rights and ensure that men and women have fair, safe working conditions and can earn a living wage. And governments will have to get serious about enforcement, cracking down on unscrupulous recruiters, criminal traffickers, and abusive employers.

Now, strengthening the rule of law will not just protect workers, it will also attract investors and make it easier for everyone to do business. And multinational corporations, like those in America, will have to insist that every link in their supply chain meets international labor standards. Now, of course, I know there’s a price tag that comes with that. But it is an investment, and it’s an investment that will pay dividends, because it can be very attractive to consumers in my country, in Europe, and elsewhere to know that the goods they buy are being produced in conditions that really help people improve their own lives. And then, of course, workers will have to keep pushing for their own rights, organizing and advocating.

Now, it took decades of struggle for workers in America to form unions strong enough to protect their rights and secure changes like the eight-hour day and the minimum wage, but it helped to create the great American middle class. And we are now adjusting our economy to the new challenges, but we certainly were advantaged by all of the changes over the last one hundred years.

I think the nations of Southeast Asia are at the beginning of your own journey. I know that there are still many problems and a lot of poverty. And I have been now in every country in the region, and I know there’s a (inaudible). There are still too many people who are terribly poor, too many children who don’t get the healthcare and the education they need, too many government officials that are not really serving the people. But there is good news as well.

And I want to commend the Government of Cambodia for their draft new trade law that could be a model for the region. It would extend rights and protection to domestic workers. It would allow people to join unions. And if this law is passed and enforced, it will set a very strong standard for the rest of the region.

Similarly in Vietnam, where I was a few days ago, there is still – there is also encouragement despite continuing problems. At the start of the year, a new anti-trafficking law came into effect. After reports of abuses on coffee plantations in Lam Dong Province, officials called for greater inspections and stricter punishment for illegal labor brokers. And Vietnam is working with the International Labor Organization to improve conditions in garment factories.

And the prospects for progress are even more dramatic in Burma, which for many years was one of the most repressive and closed societies in the world. I saw with great interest reports of the government in Nay Pyi Taw rolling back the restrictive and exploitative labor rules. Workers are beginning to organize, although they still face penalties for joining unregistered unions. There will be a lot of challenges, but I hope that we see continuing progress there.

Now, for our part, the United States is putting in place protections to ensure that the increased investment we would like to see advances the reform process. Because after all, what we want to do is make workers rights, rising wages, fair working conditions the norm everywhere. And we will be working with all of the countries represented here.

We’ve also made workers rights a centerpiece of a new far-reaching trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We are working with Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and others in these negotiations.

We are also throughout Southeast Asia supporting training and workshops on international labor standards for union organizers, employers and government officials. We’re sponsoring exchanges so labor academics can learn from each other, and we’re helping police and prosecutors go after trafficking and other abuses.

We’re working with ASEAN to deal with the migrant worker problem. We have so many people across borders looking for better opportunities and are often exploited and abused. Now, after visa requirements among ASEAN countries becomes easier, then we need a framework on the rights of migrant workers by 2015.

We’re also working with labor ministries, and we’ve signed agreements with Vietnam and China that provide exchanges and technical assistance on a range of labor issues, from mine safety to social security.

America is a Pacific nation, and our futures and our fortunes are bound up with each other. So we want to work with all of you, and particularly on behalf of women and workers, because we think that holds the key. The World Bank has done some excellent research showing that if the barriers to women’s participation in the formal economy were eliminated, growth rates in every country would rise, and some would rise dramatically.

So when I talk to government officials who I can tell are not really interested in women, which I do from time to time – not women officials but the other kind, as you know – (laughter) – and I make the case that women’s rights should be protected and women’s opportunities should be advanced, sometimes I see their eyes glaze over. (Laughter.) And they say to themselves, I’m thinking as I look at them, well, she says that all the time. She goes around in the world talking about women’s rights, and that’s fine and I’ll listen to her, but I’m not really that interested.

But when I say if you will change your laws so women can open up bank accounts or women can have access to credit, so women can start new businesses as easily as men, so that women can have fair wages when they move into the formal economy, your GDP will rise, all of a sudden I see them waking up. (Laughter.) Because it’s true that I have spent many years of my life talking about how important it is that women be given the same rights as men and the same dignity so that they can fulfill their own God-given potential.

But the argument I’m making today and I’m making around the world is that you are losing out if you do not empower women as economic beings. Because I’ll go back to the experience I had in Africa. Now, I don’t think the economist I was talking to was prejudiced against women. I just don’t think he thought of all the things women do without being paid, that all of us do, have done, and continue to do to keep families and communities and societies and economies going.

And so therefore any country that wants to maximize their economic growth in a sustainable, inclusive way will be leaving money on the table if they don’t include women and do everything they can to show respect for what women can do for themselves as well as their countries.

So this is an exciting time to be a woman in Southeast Asia, because if we work over the next years to realize the potential that this conference demonstrated with all of the excellent recommendations that the ministers have told us about, then we will see Asia grow even faster and more successfully, and most importantly we will see more girls and boys having the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential.

Because after all, I think as a mother, what we want for each of our children and what we should want for every child is that chance to be all he or she can be. Because talent is universal, but opportunity is not. So for every child who is not educated, we may be losing a scientist who would solve multi drug-resistant malaria. We may be losing a great activist. We may be losing a great academic. Who knows? But one way for sure to maximize the chance of every society to do even better is to be sure we give women the chance to compete and to demonstrate what they can contribute to us all.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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Video Remarks for South Asia Women’s Entrepreneurship Event


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 10, 2012

The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube

I’m sorry I couldn’t be there in person, but I am delighted to send best wishes to all of you as you come together to find ways to elevate the status of women.  I also want to thank the Government of Bangladesh for hosting.Closing the gender gap is a powerful prescription for economic growth.  The evidence is clear and the debate should be over.  But all over the world, women still face enormous obstacles to starting new businesses or expanding existing ones.  Many of you have faced these barriers firsthand.

That is why the United States has been working tirelessly to develop concrete solutions to these obstacles through our policies, programs, and diplomatic engagement.  And we are not alone.  Businesses, governments, and major financial and multinational institutions are stepping up to the plate with more inclusive policies to advance women’s entrepreneurship and economic development.

I often say that no country can prosper if half its population is left behind – so the work you all are doing will have a real return on investment.  By sharing best practices and brainstorming new initiatives, you are unlocking the potential of women across South Asia – and creating a brighter future for all citizens of the region.
Thank you for your efforts.  I look forward to hearing about the ideas you come up with.

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Remarks at the Conference on “Power: Women as Drivers of Growth and Social Inclusion”


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
The Westin Hotel
Lima, Peru
October 16, 2012

Good morning. I am very pleased to be here for this important conference and to join with all of you in making clear that social inclusion and development for all really does depend upon the status of women, and opening wide the doors of opportunity for women and for all people is the great work of our time. And I especially want to thank the President for his strong commitment. Mr. President, I have heard many speeches by many presidents over many years – some I know very well – and I must say the passion, the strength, and commitment that your words conveyed were extremely welcome.

Even today, not enough leaders understand that all the success that we seek for the people who we serve will be enhanced by the kind of commitment you heard from the President today. So I want to thank you, Mr. President, and I well remember when I met with you and the First Lady shortly after you were elected. Even then you understood that Peru’s economic strength, which had been considerable, the growth rate was going to be enhanced if social inclusion were at the heart of your agenda, and then at the heart of social inclusion was a commitment to women and girls.

So for me, this is a very welcome occasion, and I wish to thank you and your government, particularly the Minister for Social Inclusion and Development, for making this a national priority, for having a week devoted to social inclusion. And it is always a pleasure to see the First Lady of El Salvador, another country that is also committed to this important work, and to share the stage with someone whom I admire so much and have had a chance to work with, Michelle Bachelet, who is now doing extraordinary work at UN Women, is a great honor.

We are also pleased to partner with the Inter-American Development Bank, Julie Katzman and everyone there who understands why this must be a priority for Latin America, and to acknowledge all of the other Peruvian and international dignitaries who understand the importance of this work and have made it a priority.

Now we know that all nations need to do more to create jobs with good incomes that support families for all people. But we also know from the work of the last decade that women drive economic growth, as producers and as consumers. I used to say that if you looked at the global economy before the great economic recession, it was like an inverted triangle, and at the bottom of that triangle were women, women who made the decisions about what to buy and when, women who not only were in the informal economy, doing the work that keeps families and communities going as the president said in relaying that story from his grandfather, but also in the formal economy. So we understand, those of us who are here today, the importance of women having the opportunity to fully participate in society and in economies.

Let me just mention a woman whose work you can see outside this hall. Luzmila Huarancca creates beautiful, embroidered cloth from the Andean highlands. Now, like so many women from indigenous communities, she had no opportunity for a formal education, so she went to work as an artisan. Then about 10 years ago, she and her husband got a little boost from USAID Peru that helped them turn their skills, which they already had, into a small business. With determination, they grew that small business into an award-winning enterprise. And today, Luzmila supplies international textile markets, and has trained a network of more than 800 women in a dozen different communities to create her products.

On the way down here, I opened an international decorating magazine. I’ll confess this to you if you don’t tell anybody. (Laughter.) But when I get tired of reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of depressing reports about what’s happening somewhere or another, I either watch decorating shows on television or I read what we call shelter magazines that tell you how to decorate your home if you have the time to do so. (Laughter.)

So I opened this international decorating magazine called World Of Interiors, and there must have been 20 pages about the textiles from the Andes and how incredible the workmanship was and the artistry and the creativity. And then today, I got to see some of that for myself. But this shows you how quickly in today’s interconnected global economy one woman with a needle and determination can give hundreds of women quality jobs stitching – literally stitching new hope into their families’ futures and new economic growth for their country.

Now Luzmila’s story is one example out of thousands – really, of millions – when we look at women throughout our hemisphere and around the world ready and eager to unleash their talents. But it’s not just the individual woman and her work, as Michelle said. We know now with hard data and scientific studies that women are the global force for economic growth.

For a long time, for many years now, I would assert that, and I would often say women’s rights are human rights and we need to open the doors of opportunity, and I could see some eyes glazing over, and I could hear in my own head people saying, “Oh, well, yeah, that’s nice, but what does it have to do with me? What does it have to do with my country or my problems?” Well, today, we have quantified what it has to do for all of us. Restrictions on women’s economic participation are costing us massive amounts of economic growth and income in every region of the world.

In the Asia Pacific, for example, it’s more than $40 billion in lost GDP every year. In fact, the director of the International Monetary Fund at the annual meeting in Tokyo a few days ago, Christine Lagarde, made a very strong point that if Japan loosened restrictions on women’s economic participation, a lot of their economic drag would be overcome. So it’s not only developing countries or newly developed countries; it’s also even developed countries. In my own country, making it easier for women to enter the labor market by providing such services as child care, for example, could increase GDP as much as 9 percent. In the Eurozone, GDP could be 13 percent higher. Yet even with so much to gain for all of us, more than 100 countries have laws restricting women’s economic participation.

Now in this region of the world, the trend lines are moving in the right direction. Latin America and the Caribbean have steadily increased women’s participation in the labor market since the 1990s, and now it is above 50 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, it grew by 15 percent. And as Michelle said, without that decade of growth and participation, the World Bank estimates that extreme poverty would be 30 percent higher in the region. So Latin America deserves a lot of credit for opening up participation and markets, and you also have received a lot of benefits.

Now the question for this conference as you go forward is: What more needs to be done? How much better can you do? In the United States, women-owned businesses contribute nearly $3 trillion to our economy, and they are growing at more than double the rate of all firms. And if these trends hold, women entrepreneurs will generate more than 5 million jobs over the next six years. Now these numbers are the heart of the historic San Francisco Declaration that the 21 APEC countries adopted in 2011. I was proud to be there as Peru and Chile and Mexico, Canada, and the United States, all of the APEC countries, made commitments to lower barriers and increase economic opportunities for women. And I said then what I have said all over the world as Secretary of State: This isn’t just the morally right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do as well. And it is necessary if we hope to leave the world a better place for all our children.

I was privileged to be at Vladivostok for the Russian-hosted APEC meeting last month, along with President Humala, and it was imperative that all of the leaders there take stock of where we were economically and what more could be done. And women’s participation came up because no matter where in the world we are, that has to be key to all of our efforts for recovery.

Now why is it more difficult if all of this is so self-evident for women to participate in the economy and to start business? Well, there are four major reasons: One, women still lack access to the education and business training that every entrepreneur needs. Two, women still have more difficulty accessing markets for their products. Three, it is still harder for women to get financing because banks traditionally require credit histories or collateral that most women may not have. And four, women often lack the networks, mentors, and leadership opportunities critical for business success.

Earlier this year at the Summit of the Americas, I launched what we are calling the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas program, or WEAmericas, to take on these barriers one by one. Now there are of course other challenges – discriminatory laws and regulations hold back women around the world, cultural and family attitudes certainly hold back women around the world, but we are making progress on these fronts.

Now with respect to the WEAmericas program, we have already kicked off several training and networking programs. And I met with the first WEAmerica group when they came to the United States in May to develop their business and leadership skills and to be part of a network of women entrepreneurs from the region that connects with U.S. business leaders. Then in September, they met again in Nicaragua to focus on business management, formalize their network, and develop strategies for growth.

And then we’re also setting up what we call mentoring matches, connecting women to larger supply chains, having workshops on topics like e-marketing or how to develop a website. And soon, we will announce the results of the WEAmericas Small Grants Initiative to support organizations that foster economic development for women entrepreneurs in the region.

Now, one of the women in the first group of WEAmerica networking teams was Celia Duron. Celia owns a handcrafted paper products business in Honduras. Before she joined the WEAmericas network, making paper crafts was just a hobby. Now it is her livelihood. She has a business plan, a web presence, and four employees. She purchased a new paper-cutting machine to expand her capacity. And the connections she made through WEAmericas already landed her a month-long display agreement with Walmart.

Now today, I am proud to announce a new training initiative so more women like Celia can gain the confidence and know-how to achieve their goals. Working with the Inter-American Investment Corporation, we have created a new Women’s Entrepreneurship Trust Fund to help women throughout the region run their businesses more efficiently or get a good idea off the ground as a business.

The United States is making an initial contribution of $900,000 to launch pilot programs here in Peru and in El Salvador. But we need more partners and more contributors to the trust fund, so I’d like to invite other governments and businesses to contribute.

Private sector partners have been eager to join the WEAmericas initiative because they understand it as a shrewd investment. Businesses need suppliers who can provide high-quality goods at competitive prices. And there are a lot of women entrepreneurs who fit that description, but don’t know how to get into a global supply chain.

Also, through our Pathways to Prosperity program, we’ve improved access to markets for women-owned businesses, trained hundreds of women entrepreneurs how to tap into new markets – and that’s just here in Peru. And we’re looking through the WEAmerica partners to expand into Mexico and throughout the region.

And finally, with respect to providing better access to capital, our partners at the Inter-American Development Bank have developed innovative lending models to spur growth in small and medium-sized businesses owned by women and working to help regional banks expand their lending to women.

Now here in Peru, last October when the government established a new Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion they focused on being able to work across the entire Peruvian Government to institutionalize the commitment to social inclusion and development in the government regardless of what department it was, because there is work for each and every one of us to do.

And I want to thank Peru for being one of the founding members of the Equal Futures

Partnership, a project that the First Lady and I helped launch last month at the UN General Assembly. And one of Peru’s key commitments is promoting financial inclusion for women and girls.

Now, later this morning, along with some of the others who are here, we will be visiting the Gamarra textile market here in Lima to meet some of the successful entrepreneurs who are benefiting from Peru’s commitment to women. So by harnessing the power of public-private partnerships, the government can boost production, build the capacity of promising textile manufacturers, foster greater inclusion and opportunity among the area’s more than 50,000 workers, 60 percent of whom in the textile industry are women.

I also want to say a word about what happens in rural areas, because economic development is a crucial tool in taking on many of Peru’s long-term challenges, like ending the drug trade and terrorism. And in rural areas, Peru and the United States are working as partners to support women who are replacing thousands of hectares of illegal coca fields with profitable crops, like chocolate and coffee and palm oil, and we saw some of that outside. In regions like San Martin and Ucayali, women are helping communities long plagued by violence rebuild and join the formal economy.

And focusing on basics is essential – improving healthcare services, supporting pension funds, providing scholarships to bright students. We want to be a good partner for Peru as you advance social inclusion. It’s been a priority for us in our relationship for 50 years, and last month we signed a new five-year bilateral assistance agreement. And today, I’m pleased to announce

our new Women’s Leadership Initiative. With $500,000 in initial funding, we’ll focus on helping Peruvian women advocate for their own needs, mobilize broad national support for issues affecting them, particularly rural women. We want to make sure they know who to contact if healthcare workers in rural clinics do not have proper training or if schools lack basic supplies. With more advocacy, openness, and accountability, women and their government can work together to improve the lives of Peruvians.

Now, we are entering what I like to call the participation age. It’s a new era in human history where you can be a poor woman in the Andes or a poor man in Africa, and you can connect to the rest of the world. That connectedness means that every individual now has a chance to contribute to the global marketplace. And so let’s use what we now have to make it possible for otherwise marginalized people to contribute in more and better ways. Because in the participation age, we need everybody we can possibly muster to be on the side of peace and prosperity, and I believe it’s going to benefit us dramatically.

So this conference, this commitment to social inclusion, this absolute determination that women in Peru and throughout our region and the world are going to have a seat at the table, not under the table, is one of the most important jobs facing us all. It’s not enough to say we want a future where every person has the equal opportunity to fulfill his or her God-given potential. We have to have a plan for how we get there. So let’s recognize these are difficult issues that can only give way with our commitment of time, resources, and attention.

But I’m absolutely confident that Peru is on the right track, and I look forward, Mr. President, to following with great interest the progress that you are making on behalf of the Peruvian people, and especially Peru’s women. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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Inaugural Meeting of Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 20, 2012


On Tuesday, January 24th, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will host the first meeting of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership at the State Department in Washington, D.C. The meeting can be viewed via live webcast on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/e/eb/adcom/icwbl/.

The Council serves the United States government in an advisory capacity on major issues in international business and economic policy, including the effective integration of business interests and women’s economic empowerment into overall foreign policy; the role and limits of international economic institutions from a gender-specific perspective; and the Department of State’s role in advancing and promoting the role of women in a competitive global economy.

Secretary Clinton selected a distinguished, diverse, and international membership for the Council, representing a wide range of expertise and backgrounds, including leaders of American and foreign, public and private sector organizations. Secretary Clinton will serve as the Council’s Chair. The Council’s members are listed below; each will serve a two-year term.

Council Vice Chairs:

  • Cherie Blair, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (United Kingdom)
  • Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo, Inc. (USA)

Council Members:

  • Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Governor, Bank Negara Malaysia (Malaysia)
  • Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Minister for Foreign Trade (UAE)
  • Beth A. Brooke, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Engagement, Ernst & Young (USA)
  • Wanda Engel, Executive President, Unibanco Institute (Brazil)
  • Susan Fleishman, Executive VP for Corporate Communications, Warner Brothers (USA)
  • M. Audrey Hinchcliffe, Founder and Principal Consultant of Caribbean Health Management (Jamaica)
  • Catherine L. Hughes, Chairperson of the Board and Secretary, Radio One (USA)
  • Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director, The World Bank (Indonesia)
  • Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, The White House (USA)
  • Wendy Luhabe, Founder/Chairman, Women Private Equity Funds (South Africa)
  • Ory Okolloh, Policy Manager for Africa, Google (Kenya)
  • Maud E. Olofsson, former MP and former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden and Minister for Enterprise and Energy (Sweden)
  • Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation (USA)
  • Meera H. Sanyal, Chairperson and Country Executive, ABN AMRO / RBS Bank India (India)
  • Elizabeth H. Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO (USA)
  • Ofra Strauss, Chairwoman of the Board, Strauss Group (Israel)
  • Sally Susman, Executive VP for Policy, External Affairs, and Communications, Pfizer (USA)
  • Zhang Xin, CEO, SOHO China (China)

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U.S. Secretary of State Clinton meets businesswomen while attending a meeting with government ministries in Santo Domingo

Meeting With Pathways Women Entrepreneurs


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
October 5, 2011

Well, I am very impressed with what you each are doing now, because you are making such a difference in the economies of your communities and your countries. And I am going to continue to work with you in order to support you because it is absolutely true that where women are involved in economies, everybody does better. That’s just common sense. (Applause.)

So let’s get to work again – (laughter) – and we will stay in close touch with you. And next year, we’ll even be doing better, all right? Thank you all. (Applause.)

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Honoring Participants of African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program


Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
October 3, 2011

Thank you. I’m proud to have another beautiful daughter. (Applause.) Thank you so very much. And I told Sylvia I am very proud to have another daughter known as AWEP. (Laughter.) And I am thrilled to see all of you here. It is for me a great honor to host you. I am especially delighted that Sylvia could introduce me. She has really embodied the spirit of AWEP and gone so far in reaching out to others to help them.I want to thank and welcome all our private and public sector partners, the members of the African diplomatic corps who are here, and especially the 40 very special women who are participating in our second AWEP International Visitor Leadership Program. And as they say in southern Africa, all protocol observed.

You are here because this Administration is committed to creating opportunities for you, because we understand something that the rest of the world is only beginning to understand. And that is that women hold the key to economic growth in Africa – (applause) – just as they hold the key to economic growth around the world. I feel very personally connected to this because I have seen what it can mean in the lives of women and families and communities.

Last year, I met with the first AWEP class during their two-week program here when they met with American policy makers and business leaders, the very same program that you are participating in now. And then I was very pleased to be able to follow their stories. I remember one woman from Liberia with her own seed money set up a business incubator that now works with more than 300 Liberian women successfully enlisting the government’s support to help her fellow countrywomen start their own businesses.

Another woman from Senegal brought agribusiness leaders to Washington, where they learned about how to create public-private partnerships and identified funding sources here in the United States from the Department of Commerce. And another, a woman from Tanzania, built a network of 1,000 business women and set up a trade deal to have her own textile designs and fabrics hanging from the racks of one of our largest department stores, Macy’s, around the United States.

Now, there are many stories like that. These are just three of the success stories that we know of. But I especially was delighted when I did attend the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in Zambia, and I saw what Sylvia had done. Not only did she recruit women from every province and sector in Zambia to form the very first AWEP chapter in Africa; she raised private funds for a three-day business conference and hosted it herself. You know that old saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy woman to do it.”

And so when I walked into the conference hall, I had the chance to see some of the work that members of the AWEP chapter were doing. I saw display tables that had handicrafts and minerals and agricultural items on every surface. From the tables to the walls, you could see the bright yellow kitenge that was hanging everywhere that women had made and had the AWEP logo on it. And they were wearing it as well and gave me one to wear. And they sang, which I loved, because I can’t sing but I love to hear other people who are singing.

And the room, this large room, was filled with their voices, and it was a very happy occasion to celebrate what these women were doing for themselves and for their families, but also for their communities, and indeed, their country. The AWEP women were very prominent at the AGOA Forum, and suddenly, you had senior officials from all over Africa – all of whom were men, by the way – talking about the role that women entrepreneurs could play. And the Government of Zambia committed to create a business incubator for women entrepreneurs. And I’m delighted that that was followed up with in other chapters, as Sylvia just told us.

And so today, I am here to really not only thank you, but to encourage you – to encourage you to keep making the contacts, building the networks, making the changes that will really revolutionize what women are doing around the world. And I know that there are many here who are very determined and very committed but still face obstacles. So I wanted also to tell you, do not despair. You have many friends and supporters back here in the United States. And we will try to help you break down the barriers and the hurdles that you encounter. You heard Sylvia say that there needed to be support for women to travel those great long distances across Africa, to meet with one another, to share ideas, to start businesses. And we will do our best to help you make the difference in your own lives.

And we also will keep telling leaders around the world, as I did at a conference just a few weeks ago about Asia, that the rise of women in economies over the past 10 years has increased globally the GDP to the equivalent of China’s. Now what that means is if women are empowered to work, to build businesses, to have access to credit, to have an ownership interest in the land that they farm and the crops that they harvest, to be given a chance to compete, as Sylvia said, we know that women will make a huge contribution. So we have to break down the barriers that still exist. We have to change the laws that still hold women back. We have to not only encourage you, but encourage the governments and businesses of Africa to recognize a good thing, which is your empowerment and entrepreneurial skills.

There are still some people I encounter who say, “Well, women don’t contribute much to the economy,” because of course, they don’t count the backbreaking work that women do every single day. And I’m always a little disappointed and quite surprised when I hear that, and I say to these male economists and government leaders, “Look out the window of your car, of your house, of your office. Who is doing a lot of the work in Africa? And who is doing work that is not fairly compensated? And what can you do to unleash that potential so that your GDP grows, your economy gets bigger, you will benefit from this kind of investment?”

So we have faith in you, and we have faith in Africa, but we think Africa will grow more sustainably if women are full partners in that growth. So we intend to do everything we can to work with you. This is something I care deeply about, personally, and certainly on behalf of President Obama and our Administration and the State Department and all of our government agencies, we are committed to. So you have to be engaged in helping us know how best to help you, because, at the end of the day, we want you to succeed and we know your success will breed many more successes, and there will be young men and women who will have a better future because of what you do – because of the jobs you create, the businesses you start, the growth you inspire, and the results that will benefit the entire world.

So thank you, and let me keep hearing your stories and your songs. And let me again welcome you and wish you the very best, this year and for all the years to come. Thank you. (Applause.)


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Remarks at Breakfast With Women Entrepreneurs Attending the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
April 28, 2010

AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Thank you all. It is now my distinct pleasure to welcome someone who truly understands the power of entrepreneurship, and particularly the potential of women-run small and medium-sized businesses to drive economic growth. She knows that when women progress, countries progress. In her travels around the world, she has gone out of her way to meet with women who are advancing their societies and growing their countries’ economies. She recognizes both the potential of women’s economic leadership and the obstacles that still stand in their paths.

And that is why she has been a champion of women’s access to credit, to markets, to communications technology, to training and mentoring and so much more, and has brought her considerable leadership here to projects at the State Department, many of them public-private partnerships, like MEPI’s programs to grow women’s business leadership in the MENA region; like the State Department FORTUNE Vital Voices Mentoring Program; like Pathways to Prosperity and other initiatives to tap women’s potential for trade, from the African Growth Opportunity Act to APEC. And yesterday, she launched the Partners for a New Beginning that taps into America’s private sector expertise to support our outreach to Muslim communities around the world. I’m sure you felt the depth of her commitment yesterday in her closing speech at the Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit.

So please welcome the U.S. Secretary of State, a champion for social and economic entrepreneurs everywhere, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Well, it is such a pleasure to welcome you to the State Department, to have this opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women entrepreneurs around the world. The women in this room are proof that – if anyone still needed proof – that women are doers and achievers and thinkers and innovators, leaders, and problem-solvers. And we need each and every one of you to lend your entrepreneurial skill and energy to meeting the global challenges of this new century.

As I said yesterday, President Obama is committed to promoting entrepreneurship to help seed conditions for broader and deeper economic progress. And this week’s summit has focused on our efforts in Muslim majority countries. I know and you know that women are essential to this effort. There isn’t any way we can increase peace, prosperity, stability, and security throughout the world unless women are full partners – full partners in the home and the family, full partners in the community and the country and the world.

I believe so strongly that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. And what we’re doing is trying to pry open those doors of opportunity for more people to walk through – more people in Muslim majority countries and more women, specifically. Because the fact is that women still have a harder time accessing loans and equity capital investments. Women are still saddled with unfair and untrue assumptions that they are less capable of starting and running businesses. And these obstacles exist in the United States and they exist in every country in the world.

But we are determined to change that. Making women a focus of our foreign policy agenda here at the State Department comes naturally to me, but it’s not only the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing as well. Because as Melanne said, we believe that the evidence is overwhelming. We cannot expect countries to increase their economic standing in a sustainable way. We cannot expect there to be greater foundations built for security, democracy, opportunity, unless women are at the table.

Many of you are aware of and have participated in our partnerships, supporting the Middle East and North Africa Businesswomen’s Network. That has already helped 2,500 entrepreneurs and business and professional women in 12 countries develop their skills and talents not only in the business world, but beyond. Some women have even gone from business into politics and government, and we see that as all part of the same continuum. And it’s been a model of how public-private partnerships can tap into a reservoir of untapped potential, and that by creating networks of support, we can build locally driven and locally supported organizations that do bring about change. Now, MENA BWN has been so successful that it will launch in June as an independent, regional NGO. And just last week, Exxon Mobil agreed to make a $1.5 million, two-year investment supporting that effort. (Applause.)

And so this morning, I’m pleased to outline several new avenues we are pursuing to expand opportunities so more women can turn their entrepreneurial dreams and innovations into successful businesses that generate income for themselves and their families, create jobs, expand markets, and fuel progress in their communities.

I will never forget being in Nepal – and I was there with Melanne, who has been my partner throughout this last 18 years in all that we have done – and we were at a market display of women’s crafts. And there was a woman whose artistry in her fabric and tapestry was just so remarkable. And we began a conversation through an interpreter, as so many of these are, and I complimented her and she told me that she had been in purdah until relatively recently – had never left her home, had never been permitted when she had married, to go outside.

But then, her husband was injured and could no longer go out to work, and the family was in desperate straits. They lived, as was the tradition, with the husband’s family and the mother-in-law played the major role in the house. And they saw their income disappearing, they saw the food on their table becoming scarcer to feed the children in this extended family. And finally, this young woman I was speaking with got up the courage to say to her husband and to her mother-in-law, “Maybe I could sell what I make.” And finally, she was given permission to go out and do so. As a result of her talent and her skill, she now employed two other weavers and she now is sending her children to school and they had added onto their home. And so I said, “So what does your husband and your mother-in-law think now?” She said, “They think it’s good.” (Laughter.) (Applause.)

So here’s what we want to do that we hope will be good. First, through a program called Tech Women, we will enhance the technological capacity of women in seven Muslim majority countries, promising entrepreneurs in the tech field will be paired with American mentors and given four to six weeks of training in American tech centers such as Silicon Valley. (Applause.)

Second, we are working with Japan, the chair of APEC this year, to organize an APEC women’s entrepreneurship summit this fall in Japan, focusing on policy, human resources and financing issues. The aim is to galvanize the Asia-Pacific region to unleash the potential of women entrepreneurs and business leaders, and we’re very pleased that the 1,000 – the 10,000 Women’s Initiative, sponsored by Goldman Sachs, has agreed to be a sponsor of the summit. And we thank you so much for that. (Applause.)

Third, today we are launching the Secretary’s – that’s me – the Secretary’s – (laughter) –International Fund for Women and Girls. This public-private partnership will provide high-impact grants to NGOs working to advance the economic, social, and political progress of women. The women’s fund will bring together the resources and expertise of both the public and the private sectors to invest in effective and innovative solutions for issues like economic empowerment, climate change, combating violence against women, and improved access to education and healthcare. We know that everywhere in the world, on the ground, are groups of people who are taking these issues on. We want to be your partners and we want to help you learn what worked somewhere else.

I will never forget being in Managua, Nicaragua and there was a little television set in the corner of this market, and I was talking to women who were part of a microcredit organization. All they wanted to talk to me about was my visit to India, to the Self-Employed Women’s Association, which they had seen on their TV in Nicaragua, and they wanted to know what that was like.

A few months later, I was in Cape Town, South Africa with a group of women who were originally squatters and then became builders of their own communities, scraping together the money to buy the land, then to get the construction material, and they, too, wanted to know about the women that I had met elsewhere and what they could learn from them. We want not to reinvent the wheel every single time. If you’re facing obstacles, we want to help you overcome them. (Applause.)

And finally, I’m delighted to announce the creation of the Secretary’s Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. Through this effort, we hope to build on pioneering approaches to empowering women politically, economically, and socially around the world. This award will be funded by the Rockefeller Foundation – we’re going to hear about it in a minute – and it reflects the State Department’s increased emphasis on public-private partnerships as a way to address cross-cutting global challenges, particularly those affecting women and girls.

Now, we hope to receive entries that describe how specific innovations have improved the lives of women and girls and proposals for how they can be scaled up and applied more broadly. These entries will be reviewed by an eminent panel of jurors, chaired by Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women Issues Melanne Verveer, and Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin. The panel will recommend the first two recipients of the award in 2010, both of whom will receive up to a $500,000 grant to fund their programs. (Applause.)

And there are so many ideas that can fit into this, ideas – I remember being in Senegal and going out into the country to see a new kind of well that made it possible for women to get water in their own village instead of having to walk for hours. We’re working on a cook stove project so that we can provide safe and effective cook stoves for women so they don’t have to travel for miles to get trees and branches and look for scrub to light their stoves to feed their families. We’re looking for ways to end domestic violence by making it clear that it is a crime, ways to partner to end FGM, which is a health hazard to women, especially young girls, but then later in their reproductive years.

We have so many ideas that are not just, well, have a woman run for office or have a woman run a business, but change the conditions in which women live, change the attitude about sending girls to school, provide a fund so that girls have access to clean restrooms, so that they continue to go to school at the end of primary school when it becomes more difficult for them to do so if there is no safe, clean restroom. There’s so many ways that we can empower women. So we want to unleash the entrepreneurial creative imagination of all of you to help us.

Now, it is a privilege to have Dr. Judith Rodin here with me to launch this project. Judith is a friend, an inspiration, and a leader in many fields. For many years, she was the president of the University of Pennsylvania. Currently, she is leading the Rockefeller Foundation into new ways of finding innovative solutions to global problems. The foundation has always been at the forefront of efforts to combat disease, reduce poverty, improve housing, promote agricultural reform – they even spawned the so-called Green Revolution. Well, today, under Judith’s leadership, the foundation continues to pioneer new innovations for the challenges of our time.

And Judith, thank you so much for being our partner in this really important project. (Applause.)

MS. RODIN: Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton. Let me start by just saying how delighted the Rockefeller Foundation is to provide funding for this wonderful new award, the Secretary’s Innovation Award for Women and Girls’ Empowerment. And thank you, Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Verveer, for your long-term, longstanding leadership and, I must say, perseverance in keeping this issue at the forefront of public awareness.

I’d like to emphasize from our perspective why this and why now. Why is this particular approach so important, and why is now the right time to pursue it? The short answer is that in the experience of our colleagues at the Rockefeller Foundation, identifying innovation, scaling that innovation, and applying it to seemingly intractable problems, has been shown time and time again now to be hugely effective. And this approach is urgently needed with the focus on women’s empowerment because the gains we have made in this context – and you are all representatives of those gains – are not enough.

We all know the facts. Women still do two-thirds of the work in the world but only earn five percent of the income. They harvest 90 percent of the world’s food, yet they own only one percent of the world’s land. And women are three times as likely as men to work in informal economies. And therefore abuse and sex trafficking, and the absence of legal rights and protections for women are still unacceptably commonplace in so many places around the world. We must do more and we must do more with greater urgency to empower women. And we believe that a focus on scalable innovation can and will make a difference.

The Rockefeller Foundation is intently focused on leveraging and scaling local innovation to ensure that globalization’s benefits are more widely shared and that its burdens are more easily weathered to encourage more equitable growth and to strengthen resilience to risk. Now, leveraging innovation doesn’t only mean devising a great idea from the top down and pushing it down. In our experience, and I know in the experience of so many of you, scalable solutions are often found when we seek innovations where they occur, on the ground in local contexts.

Let me share one of my favorite examples of this approach to problem solving. Positive Deviance, one of our grantees, seeks out and identifies behaviors that enable outliers, or what they call positive deviants, to succeed where others have failed. Then they encourage the widespread adoption of these same behaviors. In Southeast Asia, for example, researchers at Positive Deviance visited a very impoverished Vietnamese village and they noticed that just a few children in this scattering of very poor families were in exceptionally good health. Upon closer examination, they discovered that in those households, the mothers didn’t wash away the shrimp and crabs found in the rice paddies before they cooked the rice. So they were adding, maybe unintentionally, protein to an otherwise carbohydrate diet. This technique, once unearthed, was promoted in one village and then spread to thousands. This is a small, user-driven innovation that really made an enormous difference on regional public health.

So we are looking for, encouraging, and scaling many types of innovations in a number of different contexts around the globe, and with great success in changing conditions that were previously thought to be intractable. That’s why we are so thrilled to be partnering with Secretary Clinton and the State Department to create this new mechanism to seek out and scale local innovations that are working. We’re going to identify and spread what’s working, bringing more attention and, as you heard, we hope a lot more money than we have been before. So these half a million dollar awards, which will go to two people, organizations, ideas that can be taken to scale a year, we think will call increasing attention and give increasing resources.

Many of these will, obviously, come from women. Women the world over, because of the challenges they confront, are instinctual innovators and they are energetic entrepreneurs. You know that; you are here in this room. Their drive and their ideas must be recognized and realized, but we must give you the resources to do this and take it to scale. I am confident that by the end of this year, when we announce our first two, and then in subsequent years we will be developing a cohort of ideas that go to scale and we will start to see a ripple across the world of innovation that promotes resilience, that advances opportunities for women and that empower women to shape their own future and the future of humanity.

We are very fortunate. We will add a few members to the jury, but we are already fortunate to be able to have helping us to make these awards Anne Mulcahy, Paul Farmer, Muhammad Yunus, Sheryl Sandberg, Cherie Blair, Beth Brooke, and Noeleen Heyzer. So we have a wonderful beginning panel and we intend to find all of the great ideas. We are so excited about this award and our partnership and about the hopeful future we can empower women around the world to build with our commitment and support, but most of all, most importantly, with their own ideas and their own innovation.

So thank you, Secretary Clinton, for being our partner. We really look forward to this exciting launch. Thank you. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this project which we are so excited about is just one example of the ideas and the programs that we’ve announced over the last two days of the Entrepreneurship Summit. It’s what happens when we create networks and partnerships, when we share best practices and lessons learned, where we match the talents of people, particularly women, around the world with the opportunities that they can then seize for themselves.

So when you leave here today, I hope you will carry with you a renewed sense of possibility and a commitment to use your skill and energy to contribute to the growth and progress of your families, your communities, and your countries. Because I think – this is a biased statement, but (laughter) – I really believe that, together as women, we can and will help create a stronger, more stable, more secure, more prosperous, more peaceful world for ourselves and our children. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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Remarks at the Pathways to Prosperity Women Entrepreneurs Conference


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
October 9, 2009

Date: 10/09/2009 Description: Secretary Clinton attends the Pathways to Prosperity Women Entrepreneurs Conference, co-hosted by the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues.  © State Dept ImageSECRETARY CLINTON: (In progress.) – this conference for women entrepreneurs, to bring you all together and not only to have you meet one another, but also to meet people here in the State Department, because we want to promote more social inclusion, justice, and shared prosperity. So we have, I believe, more than 80 women from 14 countries in our hemisphere. And I am very honored and proud to see all of you. I want to thank everyone who is on our team in the State Department for the hard work making this happen. And I want to thank our envoys, the four of them, raising their hands indeed. (Applause.)
Part of what we are trying to do here in the State Department with all of you is to make the case that empowering women is a key to progress and prosperity and peace. Bringing together the mentors and the entrepreneurs is one way of creating even more support for all of you in business to be able to spread the benefits of women taking leadership roles. I’ve heard about some of the work that you are doing in your own lives, and I am very touched by the courage and the commitment that so many of you have already shown.
Date: 10/09/2009 Description: Secretary Clinton attends the Pathways to Prosperity Women Entrepreneurs Conference, co-hosted by the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues.  © State Dept ImageI really believe that we need women’s voices to become more prominent in all of the debates throughout the world. We are not all the same with all of the same dreams and experiences, but I do believe that we have a shared vision of what our world should be. And I am very committed to working throughout our hemisphere to create better understanding and closer cooperation.
So I look forward to hearing even more stories from all of you and about you. And we stand ready to provide this Pathway to Prosperity. I think it is a great start from all that I have heard about this conference, and I can’t wait to see what more we can do together. So leave here knowing that you have not only friends, but partners in creating a better future, and think of ways that each of us can reach out to others who can benefit from our own mentoring and our own support.
What can I say except you are a sight that I absolutely love seeing? (Applause.)


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Roundtable With Women’s NGO and Female Entrepreneurs


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Spokesman
March 3, 2009

MS. GUTMAN: Welcome, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Bonnie.

MS. GUTMAN: We are all very honored for you to be here with us today. We’ve got an exciting group of women, a dynamic NGO that I’m very happy to introduce to you today. The women who drive it are very exciting. The group is called Sviva Tomechet, which in English means “Supportive Community.” It’s a women’s business development center. Four business women, all new immigrants from the former Soviet Union in 2003, founded this group to support and promote women from all sectors of society in their economic and social integration into Israeli mainstream. And they had a secret; they developed a niche: they decided to help women by supporting their micro-business enterprises.

And one of your guests today, Diana Ahdout, co-produced a video about Supportive Community, and that video was placed among the finalists in an international video competition sponsored by the State Department. That was our competition called, “My Culture + Your Culture = ?” Now, Diana did a good job of answering that question mark, I think, because she participated in a State Department training program on the use of new media.

But now I’d like to introduce you to the other women here, and then we can go on with our program.


MS. GUTMAN: Seated on your left is Ms. Yulia Reznikov. Yulia is co-founder and vice chair of the organization, and she’s now the program director there. She also heads a clinic for alternative medicine.

To your right is Rachel Farada. Rachel was born in Ethiopia and she started a catering company following a course that she took at Supportive Community. And you’re going to see her very shortly because she stars in the video that we’re going to see.

Seated next to Rachel is Hagit Rubinstein, and Hagit is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow alumnae, having completed a year at the American University in Washington, D.C.


MS. GUTMAN: Now she works for a foundation that, with Supportive Community, provides the only micro-credit loan program in Israel for women.



SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have to talk.

MS. RUBINSTEIN: We should.

MS. GUTMAN: And next to Hagit, again, is Diana. Diana, as I said, co-produced that video. She also, when she’s not doing video production, coordinates community relations and volunteers for the organization.

And seated next to me is Marina Savizky, who was born in Russia and began her flower business after she took a course in Supportive Community. And she received in 2008 that organization’s best business award. And you will also see Marina in the film.


MS. GUTMAN: But now that you’ve heard me talk, I would like to ask the co-founder of the organization, Yulia, to tell you a little bit about her community and about the video.

MS. REZNIKOV: (In Hebrew.)

MS. GUTMAN: The film will be here in English.

SECRETARY CLINTON: The film is in English?

MS. GUTMAN: Yes, it is.


MS. GUTMAN: And it’s subtitled, anyway. And there were actually 40 videos selected across the world in four different categories, and this was in the top ten for international.

(The video was shown. http://connectcontest.state.gov/video/supportive-community_2)

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s great. Excellent.

MS. GUTMAN: Let me start by asking a question, if I may.


MS. GUTMAN: Marina, your excitement for your business is so palpable, but I don’t think you got that excitement from Supportive Community; I think that came with you. But can you tell us a little bit about what you did learn from Supportive Community and how that did help you develop your business?

MS. SAVIZKY: (In Hebrew.)


MS. GUTMAN: And I think, Rachel, you have a very interesting story also. Perhaps you can share that with the Secretary?

MS. FARADA: (In Hebrew.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am so happy you came to see me. And I loved seeing one of your children, that handsome young man, one of your sons.

MS. GUTMAN: Actually, Yulia, you have a daughter. Would you encourage your daughter to go into business for herself?

MS. REZNIKOV: (In Hebrew.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a good example.

MS. GUTMAN: And taking courses at Supportive Community, 50 percent of the women who have been through your courses have doubled their income.

MS. REZNIKOV: (In Hebrew.)

MS. GUTMAN: Ah, excuse me. So those courses are very valuable. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about them?

MS. REZNIKOV: (In Hebrew.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I would like to know a little bit more about the way the micro-finance works because I’ve worked in this area for probably 25 years or so. It would be very interesting to me to find out how that works. Do the women come to Supportive Community and then apply for loans? What’s the model that you use, Hagit?

MS. RUBINSTEIN: Well, first of all, I must say that there’s very little microfinance in Israel.


MS. RUBINSTEIN: Very little.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I was surprised when you said there was only one program for women.

MS. RUBINSTEIN: Actually, there are two programs. One is the one that we’re talking here, which is a micro-credit loan fund, and another one that we’re doing with the Arab Bedouin women in the south of Israel, which is based on the Grameen model of Solidarity Group, et cetera. The way it works with Supportive Community is that women – actually, our trainers and consultants go to them and help them, go to their house, go to (inaudible) house (inaudible) and help them create the business plan – small business plan, after they’ve been through a training. And then they kind of get a work plan. It’s a process that they go through to create – to get the loan. It’s not just, they get the money and bye.

I think that the hardest thing for – we were just talking with (inaudible) before because she really wants to take a loan, and the hardest thing is personally. Women are reluctant to take credit. They’re afraid because they usually pay.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. It’s almost like 98 percent, yes.

MS. RUBINSTEIN: Yeah. So because they pay back, they worry, will I be able to pay back? So they’re very slow about it. We believe that a loan can really make your business jump and – but it’s a lot of personal things that have to –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Where did the initial seed money for the microfinance come from?

MS. RUBINSTEIN: Right now, most of it is coming from donors in the U.S. A co-ed foundation in San Francisco is one of the big – actually the founder of this program. The truth is that one of the problems – I think one of the reasons why it’s so small is because Israel is not considered a developed country – a developing country.


MS. RUBINSTEIN: Some say it’s a question. It’s a question. It’s not a developing country, so an organization like USAID, Save the Children, FINCA, all those will not – do not come here because we’re not poor enough. But (inaudible) there are a lot of poor people in Israel. So we’re kind of stuck. We don’t have the scale, you know, the money to make it big, so we hope. But right now it’s very small, and we have big plans about making it national, reaching a lot more women. But it’s still a drop in the sea.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s very exciting, though. I’m a very, very strong believer in the power of microfinance. Diana, you worked on the film didn’t you?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Had you heard about this program before or were you asked to do the film by the program?

MS. AHDOUT: (In Hebrew.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a wonderful story that you now have a business doing business like this. I think that’s a great compliment to you.

And, Yulia, when you started the program, was one of your goals to have it be both supportive for women, but also to bring in the variety of women in Israel, so it’s Jewish and Arabic, and it’s different racial backgrounds?

MS. REZNIKOV: (In Hebrew.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I know that Hagit said that it is challenging for anyone to go into business. Are there special obstacles for women in Israel to go into business, Marina?

MS. SAVIZKY: (In Hebrew.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think everyone has a different story, and each person has to follow her own interests and deal with her own talents and challenges. But I decided, when I was a young woman, to become a lawyer. I think that was a good decision for me because I learned a lot about how to present arguments and how to study problems and analyze them. I have practiced law, but I’ve also done these other things.

I think it’s just a question of continuing to learn – like all of you have done – by coming to the Supportive Community, finding people who will invest in you – as this NGO does – so that there are good models and mentors around to help you, and working really hard.

I don’t think there’s any substitute for hard work. I wish there were. But I think it’s a question of being willing to try even when it’s hard, not being afraid to fail if it’s something you want to do. Because every experience in life teaches you something, and that just adds to your ability to try something new.

I am particularly happy to hear about this NGO, because I have long believed that women helping women is one of the best ways for us to try out new things. Because if you’re in a woman-supported environment, you may be less worried about looking like you don’t know what you’re doing or failing or trying something and not succeeding.

I think this is exactly the kind of model that needs to be replicated, because you need a safe, supportive community to test your own dreams and your own talents. It does require taking risks, as Hagit said. And lots of times, women are less inclined to do that than men. Sometimes we think men take unnecessary risks, but then the opposite side of the coin is sometimes women won’t take necessary risks. It comes with the territory, as we say.

I think part of the importance of what you’re doing is you’ve created this safe space. I think it’s as needed now as it ever has been.

There are many more opportunities for women, even from the time that I was a young woman. But it still is challenging, and especially if you have children, you have obligations at home, if – you may be a new immigrant. Those are all challenges you have to overcome.

I really commend you and I am very proud that the State Department, Bonnie, and her colleagues here in Israel – but colleagues like her around the world – are reaching out with this important cultural program.

I wish you success as we get to the finals. I think there were over 800 applications worldwide.

MS. GUTMAN: A huge number.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Even more than that. So you are down to 1 in 40, did you say?

MS. GUTMAN: Mm-hmm.

SECRETARY CLINTON: So you’ve already done extremely well with telling your story and having it so well presented. I’m just happy that you could come and spend some time with me so I could see you in person and see the good work that the State Department is doing, but more importantly, the good work that all of you are doing.

Thank you all very much.

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