I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the 2014 graduating class of the Peace Through Business program. Although I’m unable to be there with you, I am honored to have the opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments as successful Rwandan and Afghan businesswomen. Your dedication and commitment to pursuing your dreams despite many odds is truly inspiring.
I also want to acknowledge Dr. Terry Neese, the founder and CEO of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women, whose leadership contributed to the establishment of the Peace Through Business program, which is now in its eighth year. Thanks to Terry’s vision and the tireless efforts of her staff, over 150 women have been directly affected since the program’s inception in 2006. Countless others have been indirectly impacted by the graduates such as you who share their knowledge when they return to their communities.
Throughout my career, including during my time at the White House and now as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, I have been a staunch supporter of women’s rights. Throughout my travels, I have seen firsthand that our efforts to make peace are more sustainable when women have a say in how societies recover and move forward from conflict. This includes ensuring that women play a meaningful role in post-conflict economic development efforts. Women must be trained and prepared to participate at all levels of the private sector– from management, finance, and marketing, to trade and business strategy development. During a visit I made to Afghanistan last November, I met with several female businesswomen who inspired me with incredible stories of the obstacles they have overcome and the great strides they have made over the last twelve years. Women I met in Rwanda share the same resilient entrepreneurial spirit and have worked tirelessly to protect the rights of women and girls in their country. Both of your countries are stronger for it. You are all role models for the next generation of women leaders—not only at home, but around the world.
As Peace Through Business graduates and leaders in your communities, you now have an opportunity to make an even greater difference when you inspire other female businesswomen like yourselves.
I wish you all the best in your endeavors and look forward to hearing about your continued success.