About the Author: Marsha McLean serves as Senior Consultant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Office of Public Diplomacy.
We listened to Haiti today, at least to a group of eight Haitian women entrepreneurs representing micro and small businesses. And we learned about their needs and about their strength in the face of adversity.
We were in San Jose, Costa Rica, for the Pathways to Prosperity Ministerial at a conference for women entrepreneurs, in fulfillment of one of the goals of the Pathways initiative to ensure that the benefits of economic growth reach all our citizens. We felt there was a need to reach out to women in Haiti, so the group of businesswomen, government officials and multilateral organization representatives at the conference linked to our Haitian counterparts via video-conference. The discussion we had was a first step in reaching out across the hemisphere to express our solidarity as women entrepreneurs with the women of Haiti, to listen to their stories, and to better understand how programs to support their recovery might be focused.
As we listened to the Haitian entrepreneurs' stories, we were struck by their courage and perseverance. We learned that what is most important to the Haitian entrepreneurs is accessing micro credit at good interest rates, learning how to manage the financial side of their businesses, and acquiring leadership skills. Many women in Costa Rica sent heartfelt messages to the Haitian women, encouraging them to stand united as they represent the key to their country's economic recovery. There were few dry eyes in Costa Rica when the Haitian women explained to us that the thing that gives them most hope is simply that they survived. What we tend to take for granted, they no longer do.
This video-conference was a first step in opening a dialogue between the women of Haiti and their counterparts in the rest of the hemisphere. Our work will continue as we find ways to reach out to Haiti, to the entrepreneurs, and to the long term recovery of their country.