Remarks to the Women’s Development Dialogue Series
Nesbitt Castle, Bulawayo
Sa-li-bo-na-ni! Good morning to you all! I am very pleased to be making my first visit this week as U.S. Ambassador to the City of Kings and Queens, and I am especially delighted that this first visit coincides with the launch of the Women’s Development Dialogue Series in Bulawayo. I’d like to congratulate our program partners, Mrs. Dorothy Adebanjo (AH–DEH–BAN–JOH) and Mrs. Nonto Masuku (MAH-SUU-KUH) for the outstanding effort that they have both put into organizing this program with the support of my team at the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section.
The United States government is a strong supporter of the global effort to promote gender equality, which we implement through our diplomatic engagements, our foreign assistance programs, and our partnerships with civil society and private sector actors across the globe. To this end, my mission team in Harare works to support and enhance the contributions of Zimbabwean women in this society, and our partnership on the Women’s Development Dialogue (WDD) Series is one of several engagements that we have undertaken.
Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Adebanjo and an interagency team of women who work at the U.S. Embassy, the first WDD series was successfully concluded in Harare in 2015, with over 40 women who came together – from fields as diverse as health and medicine, academia, the arts, civil society, government and business – to take part in the mentoring and professional development discussions. Our goal for that initial program was to empower young women by facilitating meaningful, long term connection for them with successful and experienced, professional women who have walked different, sometimes difficult, personal paths to achieve their professional and personal successes today.
The enthusiastic reactions of mentors and mentees alike to that first dialogue program – and their interest in seeing the same activities expanded around the country – served as the inspiration for the U.S. Embassy to support this second dialogue series. And where better to launch this successor program than in Bulawayo, with professional women in Matebeleland?
We view this dialogue series as a way for the U.S. mission to contribute to the advancement and empowerment of professional women in Zimbabwe. The dialogue series reflects our efforts across a range of different programs that the State Department sponsors, primarily through the Office of Global Women’s Issues.
That office works to promote stability, peace, and development by empowering women politically, socially, and economically around the world. Additionally, through our Educational and Cultural Bureau, the State Department also manages professional development programs for women, such as the Fortune/State Department Global Women’s Mentoring program, the African Women’s Entrepreneurship (AWEP) program, and the TechWomen exchange. Karen Kelley and her team at the Public Affairs Section will be happy to share more information with you about these programs.
To date, these programs have enabled more than 30 Zimbabwean women with professional interests in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM fields to have mentorship experiences with American women professionals from Silicon Valley and several of my country’s most successful corporations, along with other women who work in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists throughout the United States. These programs are designed to build the capacity of professional women, enhance their leadership skills, and introduce them to some of the best practices of their American counterparts working in similar professional sectors.
My sincere hope is that the WDD program in Bulawayo will match, if not exceed, the achievements of the Harare program in creating deeper and sustained interaction among professional women, especially given the more robust civic and community engagements that I understand exist here in the City of Kings and Queens.
I am looking forward to hearing about your six-month journey in the WDD series, and I would encourage you to share your experiences through blogging about the WDD, tweeting about the WDD, writing articles about your impressions of the WDD for publication in Bulawayo’s newspapers, and by taking inspiration from your experiences as WDD mentors and mentees to create your follow-on activities with women in your spheres of influence.
In closing, I’d like to extend my best wishes to you as you embark on this unique mentoring experience, and encourage you to take maximum advantage of the WDD program. Mentors and mentees alike have much to learn and to teach each other, and I hope that both groups will be open to sharing and learning.
Finally, I’d like to invite my wife, Mithi, to offer you a few words of greeting as well.
Thank you. Siyabonga (SEE-YA-BON-GAH)!