Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Josh Harris’s remarks at USAID/Libya Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference
Thank you all for having me at this important event. This is one of the first events I have attended since assuming my new role as Chargé d’Affaires and it is a pleasure to be among such a motivated and diverse group of Libyan entrepreneurs.
We know that women entrepreneurs around the world are emerging as an important source of innovation and job creation. However, they often do not have equal access to the capital and business networks they need to sustain and expand their businesses. USAID is working to change this, with the help of local partner organizations, and by funding programs such as the Libya Economic Empowerment program, managed through Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), which offers business training and networking opportunities to help women manage small and medium enterprises. To date, this program has trained over 900 entrepreneurs, some of whom are here today. These women have gained essential skills to advance their businesses and we can see the results.
For example, Dr. Radia Elswei, a successful businesswoman, has formed multiple companies, taught pharmacy in medical institutes, and served as a consultant whose work was essential in convincing pharmaceutical company Pfizer to enter the Libyan market. In recent years, she has opened several companies – including one dedicated to importing food. This was just the beginning for Dr. Elswei. She is also dedicated to supporting women seeking to open their own businesses by providing free training to 21 women from Zintan and Ubari as well as mentoring members of the Libyan Women Organization in Zawiya. She is also co-founder of the Women in Business Committee in Tripoli. Finally, Dr. Swei has represented the Libyan women in various international conferences in UAE, Egypt and Jordan on topics related to empowering women and youth.
Another successful entrepreneur is Suad Gamudi. Suad is a 2018 MEDA business plan competition winner. Suad is based in Tripoli and her company Wild Plant extracts essential oils from plants for use in medicines and cosmetics.
Last but not least, there is Dihya. Dihya works with under-privileged and disabled women to promote social inclusion and improve their quality of life through sustainable economic, social, and political development projects. In addition to job skills training programs, Dihya works to raise awareness about gender issues in Libya such as gender-based violence and voter rights.
Dr. Radia Elswei, Suad, and Dihya are just a few examples of empowered Libyan women. Each of you have your own story to tell about what motivated you to become an agent of change in your community.
Sustainable women’s economic empowerment involves changes to laws, policies, practices and norms that historically limited women’s potential. Boosting women’s empowerment is one of the US Government’s highest priorities. We believe that investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment can help eradicate extreme poverty, build vibrant economies, and unlock human potential on a transformational scale. Libya has the resources — both human and financial — to drive its own development towards self-reliance.
We are proud to support the efforts of Libyan women like you, who are working to harness their country’s wealth to benefit Libya, its people and their communities.
July 19, 2019