Abuja | March 7, 2016
(as prepared for delivery)
It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning to support International Women’s Day. Officially, we recognize Women’s Day on the 8th, but we’re starting a day early to realize a whole week of activities in Abuja, Kano, and Lagos, sponsored by the U.S. Mission in Nigeria to recommit ourselves to overcoming any obstacles in the path to achieving equality for all. We’re here to recognize the accomplishments and tremendous potential of our mothers and wives, sisters and daughters, and female friends and colleagues. While equal rights for women and girls remains the great unfinished business of the 21st century, this week we recognize that it is everyone’s responsibility to work toward this goal.
In Nigeria, my travels have allowed me to witness firsthand how the entrepreneurial spirit of women and their successes in business are improving lives. From their establishment of fish farms and feed businesses to production of Mothers’ Delivery Kits, Nigerian women—many of them alumnae of U.S. exchange programs—are moving this country forward. We’re proud to be partners with them.
We’re also proud of our own American story. I want to welcome Melanie Elturk and Ahmed Zedan to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and thank them for making the long trip to share their experiences. In their business, Haute Hijab, Melanie and Ahmed represent the best of America—hard work, diversity, creativity, and passion. I hope their participation in the discussion today offers a unique American perspective into starting and expanding a business.
As Secretary Kerry has said, no country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind. Equal opportunity for women and men is critical to our shared goals of prosperity, stability, and peace. We invest in the training and mentoring of women entrepreneurs so they can not only lift up their own families, but also help their countries’ economies grow. We invest in girls’ education so that they can break the cycle of poverty and mature into community leaders and engaged citizens. You are our partners in this effort. Thank you for supporting this International Women’s Day with us.