Ambassador Lynch delivers remarks at WeLead Conference

Ambassador Lynch speaking at WeLead Conference

Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch
WeLead Conference
September 18, 2019, 9:00 AM
Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Turkeyen

It’s so great to be here! I don’t want to take too much time since there are many amazing speakers here today and of course, the main purpose of the conference is for you to network and learn from each other. As the Ambassador representing the United States, I can tell you our mission in Guyana, and my mission as Ambassador, is to help Guyana continue on a democratic path and prepare to use new oil revenues for the benefit of all its people, including its women and girls.   This morning I’m going to tell you a little bit about what I think about women’s empowerment and the potential I see for the future of Guyana and the region.

But first I want to thank Abbigale not just for her hard work of putting this conference together but also for her creative entrepreneurship that she has demonstrated and which so many of you have been a part of.  In 2016 Abbigale successfully participated in the U.S. State Department’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative.  Having gained the tools and knowledge from her program in the USA,  Abbigale created WeLead Caribbean, an NGO that supports women in business development and philanthropy and to date has had three international conferences, in addition to mentoring workshops and forums to promote women’s development.  In January 2019, Abbigale launched the APL (Abbi’s Power Lunch) Television Series, which is a half hour television show talking to women in business — large and small — throughout the Caribbean. So – thank you, Abbigale, for all that you’ve done to empower women in this region.

It’s thrilling to be here in the company of so many inspiring and accomplished women. Just look who you represent. Business women, government officials, diplomats, civil society, healthcare, security and academia. Am I missing anything? Is it safe to say this is maybe the largest women’s conference in this country, ever? In the Caribbean? And let’s look at what you all do back at home in your communities.  You run companies, you deliver healthcare services, you implement policies that affect every level of society, and you take care of your families too!  That is why I am thrilled to hear the theme for this year’s conference is PowHERful.  Because that is exactly right.  It is the power of women which will tip the scale, in my opinion, to a Guyana that is prosperous, well governed, and secure.

I believe that empowerment comes from knowing yourself, and the value of what you bring to the table. And as women, we bring a lot.  We are one-half of humanity.  There is so much data that supports the notion when you bring women into the political and economic life of a country, the GDP goes up, and the poverty rates go down. It’s proven that companies with more women in higher management positions achieve higher profits. It’s simple, really. When women fully participate in the decisions, there is an increase of peace, prosperity, and security. History shows, when at a peace table, women build coalitions and work hard to build consensus. So it’s not enough to just talk about empowering women, if you’re serious about the political, economic, and security of the future. Women need to be involved in every aspect of shaping the world they live in, and they need the tools to do that.

And yes, there are still barriers and obstacles for women to achieve their full potential.  Talented women everywhere are working 24 hours a day and still get discouraged that they cannot seem to get ahead. Every day, sexism is still with us. We’ve all felt it.  The meetings where your ideas are ignored, and a man says the same thing and he gets the credit.  The banks that won’t extend credit to you because you’re a woman.  The direct assaults on women who are attacked and then blamed for wearing the wrong thing or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But we can’t give up.  We can’t get discouraged.  And you know why? Because nothing will improve until we make it improve.  We have to raise our voices and speak our opinions, be confident in our knowledge, and take risks! Use your “outdoor” voice!  Men do it, so why can’t we?  Follow your instincts. Empower yourself. It has clearly gotten you this far.

Ask yourselves, where do you want your community, your country, and your region to go?  Who is going to take it there?  Through your hard work and collaboration with each other, there is no limit to where Guyana and the region can go.  Resist the urge to say someone else can do it or “I’m too busy, I can’t make a difference.”  Resist the negative people and negative thinking.  Envision a future where you want to go and join with others to go there! Build on each other’s ideas.  Put people first.  Most importantly, believe in yourself. Build on your strengths, and always insist on a better tomorrow. Tell that to yourself, to your friends, and colleagues. We need each other to stand up and support each other’s businesses, mentor children and youth, girls and boys, take care of your employees.  There are obviously many ways we can support each other, but if we all do our part, from our own perspective, just think what this world will look like in 5, 10, and 20 years.

Empowerment is what we’re trying to do in the U.S. Embassy through our support for these events.  We sponsor people like Abbigale to participate in business exchange programs like YLAI to increase their leadership and business skills.  We encourage young leaders like our Youth Ambassadors and Youth Action Network to organize ways to help their communities.  On a larger scale, the U.S. State Department sponsors to Women of Courage award every year, recognizing women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal sacrifice and risk.  Since 2007, more than 120 women from 65 different countries have been recognized for making a difference.

In February 2019, the United States established the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, the first whole-of-government effort to advance global women’s economic empowerment.

This initiative seeks to reach 50 million women across the globe by 2025 through U.S. government activities, private-public partnerships, and a new, innovative fund, all focused on three pillars: Women Prospering in the Workforce, Women Succeeding as Entrepreneurs, and Women Enabled in the Economy.

So, from events like this one that brings dynamic women together, to important steps that institutions and all of our nations take to recognize the importance of women in building a better tomorrow, at the end of the day we all have a personal choice to make.  In our complicated, interdependent world, you can’t just pick one or two things and say “that is my contribution.” Events move quickly, and the internet spreads hope and despair at equal speeds.  We have to ask, will we continue to fight for what is right, despite some occasional bumps in the road? I hope the answer is yes, that a fair, prosperous and safe future is worth fighting for.  Empowerment for girls and boys. Empowerment for women and men. Let’s unleash her power, as you lead and we lead – empowerment that the country and the region has never seen before.

Thank you very much, and have a productive and wonderful conference.