About the Author: Amber Forbes serves as a Public Affairs Assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Four women: one incredible journey. Diana Martinez, Monica Pacheco, Jacqueline Perez, and Jessica Rodriguez attended the third Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas Trade Ministerial, March 2-3, 2010. These four impressive women participated in the Pathways Women Entrepreneurs Conference in October 2009 and, based on their extraordinary success stories, were sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to attend the Trade Ministerial. Read more about the four women and their success stories here.
Having met Diana, Monica, Jacqueline, and Jessica at the October 2009 conference, I have kept in touch with them as their journeys have progressed. I had the opportunity to ask them about their experiences at the Pathways Trade Ministerial earlier this month. Their excitement, gratitude, and determination to move forward are evident.
At the Trade Ministerial, the four Pathways women entrepreneurs led two workshops, sharing their success stories with the other women entrepreneurs in attendance and encouraging them to follow their dreams and make a difference in their communities. The four women each highlighted how participating in the October 2009 conference inspired them to look at their business plans from a new perspective and make the changes that have since catapulted their businesses to new heights of success. From marketing to supply chain management, networking to business reorganization, the four Pathways entrepreneurs had a wealth of information and experience to share with their captive audience. Jessica Rodriguez expressed, “It was amazing for me to have the opportunity to share my experiences with other women in Costa Rica, to tell them that any of us can be successful businesswomen and that they need only to make the decision to be one, to find their passion, and to believe strongly in it and focus on it.”
Diana, Monica, Jacqueline, and Jessica also participated in a videoconference with Haitian women entrepreneurs that was held during the Trade Ministerial. Each of the women described the videoconference as a moving experience that touched them deeply. Diana Martinez noted, “The women entrepreneurs of Haiti took a hard hit, but the amazing part of all this is that all they can think about is how they can get back on their feet. The thing that struck me the most was the fact that none of them asked for donations… they only asked for micro-credits in order to pay for their debts. Such courage deserves my admiration and my respect. It has been years since I‘ve learned a lesson so big, and this time it came from the women of the streets of Port du Prince.”
The Pathways women also took part in an exposition at the Trade Ministerial, and Secretary Clinton visited each of their booths to learn about their products. Both Diana and Monica shared with me how nervous they felt before meeting the Secretary, but that she was so kind and comforting that discussing their businesses with her was both exciting and relaxing. “Meeting Secretary Clinton,” Jacqueline said, “made me feel like more than a mere statistic, that I am not alone, but rather I am a member of a truly large network, a network that includes Hillary Clinton!”
Amazing things happen when you get a group of highly motivated women together who are passionate about making a difference, both in their communities and in the lives of women. The Pathways to Prosperity Initiative and the international network of women entrepreneurs launched by the October 2009 Women Entrepreneurs Conference is giving women exceptional opportunities for personal and professional growth. At the conclusion of the Trade Ministerial, Monica Pacheco reflected:
“Thank you to Pathways as a whole for the amazing opportunity to share our stories, to meet new people, to inspire and be inspired, to learn, to advance and represent all the women involved. After this whirlwind of a few days [at the Trade Ministerial]… we came to the realization that we had done it together. We are a team and we function together as a team as we carry, strengthen, and support each other. That was the message we took to all the women we met. So to all those of you who were with us in spirit, in thought, in solidarity, whose ideas we borrowed from and who have been waiting to hear of our news, to you: PURA VIDA always.”