Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Virtual Launch of Phase Two – PAO Virginia Elliott’s Remarks

Counselor for Public Affairs Virginia Elliott’s Remarks

Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Virtual Launch of Phase Two

September 22, 2020 2:00p.m. – 4:00p.m.

Good afternoon!  Thank you Mrs. Shola Safo-Duodo for your kind introduction and thank you to the team at the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Center (RLC) for hosting this virtual launch for AWE Phase Two!

I am very happy to be in Ghana, and I’m excited to have my first public event with all of you.  Of course if we were not in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would be together, and I would be able to meet you in person.  However, it does seem appropriate to have a virtual launch for an online course for entrepreneurs!  I am sure we will have future opportunities to meet but for now, we are all adapting to the “new normal” of virtual life and online events.

In June 2019, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce and U.S. Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan officially launched AWE in Ghana.  After the launch, 30 women were selected for the inaugural cohort and they began their entrepreneurship journeys like all of you are doing today.

Among our AWE Cohort One participants, we had pastry chefs, fashion designers, skin and hair care producers, caterers, interior designers, online grocers, cleaning suppliers, and garment manufacturers to name just a few!  This intrepid group of female entrepreneurs completed their course in November 2019, and just a few months later, our world changed.

COVID-19 has forced us to adapt and be resilient, and I am so proud to know that many of our AWE Cohort One participants have succeeded in pivoting to adjust to this new environment.  In fact – two of the examples that A/S Royce talked about in her opening remarks that we just saw on video are testimonials about women from Ghana’s first cohort – Mary Asare (shifting from school uniforms to PPE) and Tracy Sena (taking her fitness business online)!  So those are your mentors, and I hope you will all seek inspiration and mentorship from all of the Cohort One ladies.  In fact, I think that your very first lesson will be to take up the AWEsome slogan that Cohort One created and carry on the tradition which is simply to be: “Women without Limits!”

So why does the U.S. Embassy in Ghana place such a high priority on developing women entrepreneurs?  The answer is simple: bringing women formally into the economic fabric of a society results in tangible and quantifiable benefits.  All of us here today know how much women business owners, both in the informal and formal sectors, contribute to and drive Ghana’s economic prosperity.

Inequalities persist – women currently make up 50 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of the global workforce yet own only about one percent of the world’s wealth.  Programs like AWE and other U.S. government exchange programs such as the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program and the Fortune program seek to close this gap and to help women worldwide build wealth.

We also all know that when women succeed, children are healthy and educated, and communities thrive.  This principle is at the heart of the AWE program.   Designed for busy working women, AWE is a facilitated online course divided into 13 modules.  Participants complete one module per week and “gather” once weekly to attend a session facilitated by trainers and subject matter experts.

The core curriculum of AWE is an online course called DreamBuilder.  This course has already been successful in helping women in the United States and 63 countries around the world create their own business plans, build networks of successful business owners, increase understanding of how to raise capital, and more.

Through DreamBuilder, AWE works to achieve three goals:

  1. Provide online education resources,
  2. Foster networks that support access to mentorships, and
  3. Connect women through existing exchange programs.

I’m delighted that AWE continues to be run through the YALI RLC.  There are so many wonderful connections between YALI and AWE. As an example, YALI can bring together AWE participants with successful young entrepreneurs.   This is an ideal partnership that can lead to networking, mentorship, and even collaboration opportunities.

In her remarks for the AWE Cohort One graduation ceremony in November 2019, Ambassador Sullivan noted, “As many busy working women can attest – time is a precious commodity – and I commend all of you here today – our AWE Cohort One participants – for taking the time and investing it where it counts – in yourself!  I am confident you will see this decision pay off in the near future.”   So AWE Cohort Two – congratulations to all of you for also taking this step to invest in yourself!

I would like to thank in advance the many alumnae of U.S. State Department exchange programs for facilitating AWE sessions and becoming mentors to the next generation of women entrepreneurs.

In closing, allow me to congratulate you all again on being selected for this AWEsome program!  Together with you, we aim to create an ecosystem that can help thousands of women become successful entrepreneurs, here in Ghana and across the globe, as a means to create a safer and more prosperous world.

Thank you!