Women’s Conference: Empowered Leadership in 2017–Unleash Your Promise and Potential

First Lady of Guyana, U.S. Ambassador at the head table

Thank you for your kind invitation to help open this wonderful event.    I know it is no easy task to organize a conference of this magnitude, so let’s give a big round of applause to Abbigale Loncke and Jacquelyn Shipe for making it happen. (Applause)

Now I must say I am not often in the presence of someone who has received a shout-out from the President of the United States, but today I am proud to echo former President Obama in thanking Abbigale Loncke for what she has, and continues, to do.  As many of you may know, Abbigale struggled to find health care for her grandfather, and she realized that she was not alone in trying to care for parents and grandparents who could no longer take complete care of themselves.  Instead of becoming negative and complaining , she stayed positive, became proactive, and saw an opportunity.   Abbigale started a business of providing health care for the elderly and today also provides training and job opportunities for young women in the health care industry.

I would also like to thank Jacquelyn Shipe, who in addition to helping out with this conference, was one of Abbigale’s mentors through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI).   I know the two of you spent time together in Alabama discussing the way forward and, as Ms. Shipe is a former Ethics Officer at the World Bank, how practicing good ethics is good business.  Thank you Jacquelyn.

YLAI is a part of the United States’ commitment to empowering young people around the world and to ensuring they have the tools, skills, and networks to tackle our shared global challenges.  The program has been extended and applications are currently being accepted for 2017 through the end of this week.  For more information on this, and other great things that are happening at the embassy, please visit our Facebook page at US Embassy Guyana.

As this is a conference about Empowered Leadership and Unleashing Promise and Potential, particularly among women, I am reminded of a quote from one of America’s great female authors, Ayn Rand, who wrote in Atlas Shrugged, “The question is not who is going to let me; (pause) it is who is going to stop me?”

That is a perfect segue to recognize and thank Her Excellency, First Lady Sandra Granger for her extraordinary work on behalf of women and children throughout the country.  You have given a strong voice to those who are often unheard and are a true champion for women’s rights and equal opportunities for all of the people of Guyana.

First Lady Sandra Granger addressing the audience

Guyana is at the crossroads of transforming from one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere to one of the wealthiest.   It will take great leaders, men and women, to help Guyana navigate through and address the challenges of the future.  Women are a vibrant force in business, civil society, government, and every place else, as you work to advance social and economic causes, and safeguard human rights.  Women’s participation, and investing in young people, are key areas that are essential to building a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive country.  It is a simple fact that no country can fully develop if half its citizens are left behind.  Progress for women and progress for the country go hand in hand.

A participant of the Womens Conference shares her thoughts

At the U.S. Embassy, we will continue to support entrepreneurship by women and men.  We will continue supporting YLAI applications, and work with young people through USAID’s Youth Empowerment Services  (YES) Program.  And, our Youth Ambassadors Program is looking forward to sending another group to the United States this summer.  We are pleased to have great participation by women in our prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), in particular a journalist who recently returned from the United States after visiting several media houses, and Sharon Alexander who is one of your speakers in today’s program and is currently the Director of Industrial Development at the Ministry of Business.   And, I would be remiss if I didn’t give special note to Her Excellency, Sandra Granger, for participating in our Fulbright Program several years ago.  We are so proud to work with her, Sharon, Abbigale, and all of the incredible and impressive women leaders here in Guyana.  We are a partner with them to helping in any we can to advance the cause of women’s rights and to promote active participation by the young people of Guyana in all aspects of society.

With that, I thank you all and wish you the best for a great conference.